Officials at Atlantic City Race Course said April 2 there are no plans to close the storied New Jersey track, which will continue to offer live Thoroughbred racing and longer meets if it receives a share of a $90-million purse supplement from the state’s casinos.
Atlantic City will offer six days of all-turf racing this year: April 23-25 and April 30-May 2. The track is open year-round for simulcasts, and as usual will offer full cards from other tracks during its live programs, which will commence at 3 p.m. EDT each day.
In late March, Dennis Drazin, president of the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Group, told The Blood-Horse the 2008 meet at Atlantic City is most likely its last because plans to redevelop the property with a new, smaller grandstand and Turf Club have stalled. In addition, it remains up in the air as to whether Atlantic City, which has been ordered by the New Jersey Racing Commission to offer at least 20 racing days in 2009, will get any of the casino money for purses.
Horsemen have indicated Monmouth Park, Meadowlands, and Freehold Raceway would share in the $30-million a year pot over the next three years. Atlantic City in recent years has offered as many dates as it can using revenue from year-round simulcasts, and also has shifted some purse money to Monmouth. It would need some supplement money to expand its meet.
“As stated during our presentation before the New Jersey Racing Commission at its November meeting, Atlantic City Race Course is thrilled to offer these six days of all-turf racing, and we are committed to offering live racing in the future at our track,” Joe Wilson, chief operating officer of Greenwood Racing, the Pennsylvania-based company that owns Philadelphia Park Casino & Racetrack and Atlantic City, said in an April 2 statement.
“We, along with the other three New Jersey racetracks, have expressed an interest in being a part of the new purse supplement agreement,” Wilson said. “As long as ACRC is a recipient in this agreement, we are prepared to run an extended racing season next year. We have indicated to the New Jersey Racing Commission, the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, and the Thoroughbred horsemen that we are committed to live racing and will run whatever schedule that best ensures the success of this sport in the state of New Jersey.
“We will do whatever we are asked to do, within reason, to help racing in this state.”
Atlantic City president Maureen Bugdon said live racing and year-round simulcasts benefit the economy of Atlantic County and all of southern New Jersey. The track, she said, has every intention of staying open.
“Atlantic City Race Course has no plans to close,” Bugdon said in a statement. “Our 250-plus-acre site represents the sole (Recreation Commercial zone) in our area, and serves as a genuine complement to the casino properties in the way of tourism and entertainment alternatives for visitors. Our meet is extraordinarily well-received each year, with 10-year attendance records being set in each of the last three years.
“It is our hope that once we know what our portion of the purse supplement will be, we will then be in a position to indicate to the New Jersey Racing Commission and our fans what our future plans will include, and we’re very excited that this will mean more live Thoroughbred racing in South Jersey."
Atlantic City, located in Hamilton Township about 14 miles from Atlantic City’s casinos, was expected to close in the late 1990s. It continued to offer short live meets, however, and attendance increased on a daily basis. This year, the NJRC has ordered the track to again export its signal.
Hal Handel, the former chief executive officer of Greenwood, had discussed plans by the company to level the large brick structure and build a European-style grandstand that would sufficiently accommodate crowds for a boutique meet and year-round simulcasts. The rest of the property would be used for non-racing purposes. Handel left Greenwood last summer to take a job with the New York Racing Association.
Though it no longer holds regular summer meets, Atlantic City, which for years raced at night, remains known for its turf course, long considered one of the best in the country.
Atlantic City also owns an operates an off-track betting parlor in Vineland in southern New Jersey. The facility opened last year.