10/05/2011 3:08PM

Maryland official orders arbitration on Rosecroft simulcasting

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Maryland’s Labor Secretary has ordered the state’s Thoroughbred and Standardbred representatives to consent to binding arbitration to resolve a dispute over the availability of Thoroughbred simulcasts at Rosecroft Raceway, the state’s harness track.

Alexander Sanchez signed the order this week after the two horsemen’s groups could not resolve the dispute by a state-imposed deadline of Oct. 1. The deadline was contained in a bill passed earlier this year that allowed the state’s tracks to use slot-machine subsidies for operating expenses, rather than capital-improvement projects.

In a prepared statement, Sanchez said that he would choose an independent arbiter to hear arguments from each side. The horsemen’s groups would have the ability to approve the arbiter.

“I am hopeful the two industries will reach a mutually beneficial agreement through arbitration that will lay the foundation for a long-term solution that honors and protects Maryland’s storied racing tradition,” the statement said.

Under a previous agreement, Rosecroft paid the state’s Thoroughbred horsemen $5.9 million a year for the right to take bets on Thoroughbred simulcasts. Rosecroft closed in 2008 for live racing and stopped making the payments in 2009, and shortly thereafter filed for bankruptcy. The track has since been bought by Penn National Gaming, which has re-opened the track and begun aggressively lobbying the state for approval to operate slot machines at the track.

Officials of the state’s Thoroughbred horsemen’s group did not return phone calls on Wednesday.