New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority officials are preparing a request for proposals for parties interested in purchasing Monmouth Park.
The move follows action by Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to enter into negotiations with a private entity to operate Meadowlands harness track, which also falls under the auspices of the NJSEA. New York racetrack owner Jeff Gural hopes to take over operations at Meadowlands.
Christie made the Monmouth announcement after signing into law legislation designed to, in his words, provide “new tools to help the industry implement new strategies, generate additional revenue, and capitalize on interest in horse racing around the state.” One of the bills authorizes exchange wagering in the state.
The Monmouth RFP will include provisions for four off-track wagering parlors assigned to the NJSEA. Christie recently conditionally vetoed OTW legislation and suggested changes in light of ongoing negotiations; the bill currently requires license-holders to show “progress” in developing OTW parlors by January 2012.
Thus far the NJSEA has opened only one of nine possible betting facilities. Two private track operators in New Jersey have each opened one, but they only each get three.
“In furtherance of our efforts to develop a self-sustaining horse racing industry, my administration is also pursuing the sale or lease of Monmouth Park,” Christie said in his OTW veto letter. “In connection with these proposed transactions, the assignment of additional off-track wagering locations by the (NJSEA) may be necessary. Thus, it is essential that the administration and the authority retain the flexibility to assign off-track wagering licenses in connection with the sale or lease of Monmouth Park.”
Under the Meadowlands plan, Gural would also get four of the OTW parlors assigned to the NJSEA.
The New Jersey Racing Commission has awarded 141 racing days for Monmouth in 2011, though racing representatives have expressed interest in repeating last year’s experiment whereby 71 dates were raced with substantially higher purses. There was, however, a $20 million casino purse supplement in 2010; that money is gone.
It remains to be seen what the Monmouth calendar will look like this year. Legislation signed by Christie to enhance the Atlantic City casino industry included $30 million for purses over three years, but sources indicated the governor is expected to veto any action taken by the NJRC concerning payment of the $30 million ($15 million this year, $10 million in 2011, and $5 million in 2012).
Privately owned Atlantic City Race Course and Freehold Raceway have made known they would like a cut of any purse supplement and have submitted a proposed formula for how the funds could be divvied up.