Two weeks before the Breeders’ Cup World Championships at Monmouth Park, New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine said he would support financial assistance for the state’s horse racing and breeding industries.
Corzine publicly discussed the situation for the first time Oct. 12 at the governor’s mansion, the Standardbred Breeders and Owners Association of New Jersey said in a release issued later that day. The Democratic governor is heavily leaning toward another purse subsidy from Atlantic City casinos, rather than video lottery terminals at Meadowlands or other racetracks.
“We hope to have a package relatively quickly, and are convinced we can deliver a package that will keep the industry’s purses sustainable for at least three more years,” Corzine was quoted as saying in the SBOANJ release. “Holding on to the horse industry is one of the things we want to do. It is vital to sustain the industry’s footprint in this state. I will fight like crazy to keep ‘garden’ in the Garden State.”
The meeting with Corzine was attended by representatives of the Standardbred and Thoroughbred industries, as well as legislators. In a feature story on the New Jersey horse industry that appeared in the Oct. 13 issue of The Blood-Horse, officials said they expected some type of assistance would be negotiated by the end of the year.
“The question in New Jersey is whether the (Corzine) administration is going to advance a VLT agenda or whether there is going to be another purse supplement,” said Dennis Drazin, president of the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association. “The casinos are opposed to VLTs, but the horsemen are in favor of them. So it seems most likely for the short term there will be a purse supplement.”
In 2004, the racing industry cut a deal with Atlantic City casinos to get $86 million for purses over four years in exchange for not pursuing gaming machines at racetracks. The subsidy is gone at the end of this year.
The Breeders’ Cup, to be held Oct. 26-27 at Monmouth, has brought added attention to the plight of the New Jersey horse industry. Republican Assemblywoman Jennifer Beck told The Blood-Horse the racing industry believes it needs about $40 million a year for purses to remain competitive with other states in the region.
New Jersey has four tracks--Monmouth and Meadowlands, which are operated by the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority; Freehold Raceway; and Atlantic City Race Course. According to an economic impact study released this summer by the Rutgers University Equine Science Center, the tracks’ economic impact is about $502 million a year, while the total impact of the horse industry is $1.1 billion a year.
There are more than 42,500 equines in the state, 8,200 of them Standardbreds and 4,300 of them Thoroughbreds. The horse industry is considered a key component of plans to maintain open space and foster agriculture in New Jersey.
“Part of what’s happening here is the Breeders’ Cup is going to highlight the horse racing industry and show off some of the amazing things in the Garden State--it is still the Garden State,” Beck said. “We’re going to use the international attention as an opportunity to have a rallying cry.”