Commission Recommends Sale of Jersey Tracks

Commission Recommends Sale of Jersey Tracks
Photo: Equi-Photo
Monmouth Park

Monmouth Park, which is conducting an experimental race meet with average daily purses of about $1 million, would be sold under a recommendation from a committee appointed to study New Jersey’s gaming, sports, and entertainment industries.

The July 21 report from the New Jersey Gaming, Sports and Entertainment Advisory Commission also recommends ending Thoroughbred racing at Meadowlands, and either selling the track or leasing it to harness horse interests at a nominal annual fee.

The recommendations, which have been embraced by Governor Chris Christie, effectively propose getting the state out of the horse racing business.

It also recommends ending the current subsidy to horse racing from the state's casino industry, $17 million of which is helping fund the large purses being paid out during the 50-day Monmouth Park meet.

Noting that the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, under which Monmouth Park and Meadowlands operate, is losing $30 million a year, the panel reccomends:

--Divesting the NJSEA of all responsibilities related to venue operations, including, in particular, the Meadowlands Racetrack, the IZOD Arena, and Monmouth Park Racetrack

--Postponing the proposed Bayonne OTW project until legislation can be passed that permits OTWs to function without live racing

--Ceasing operations of the Meadowlands Racetrack and offering Standardbred owners the opportunity to lease the racetrack.

The NJSEA has already implemented a short-term plan for 2010 recommended by the commission that includes the 50-day Monmouth Park meet, no Thoroughbred racing at Meadowlands, and a 21-day weekend fall meet at Monmouth to supplement six days of turf racing at Atlantic City Racecourse. Those changes were approved by the legislature and signed into law by Christie.

Among the future options for the racing industry, according to the commission, are:

--Thoroughbred racing at Monmouth and potentially 10 days at Atlantic City and 70 Standardbred dates at Monmouth.

--Lease the Meadowlands Racetrack to the Standardbred horsemen for $1 dollar a year for three years with early termination rights and an equity-based share of the Bayonne OTW parlor.

--Convert to a commercial use one of the Standardbred farms in New Jersey that has a one-mile track, and build a 5,000 seat grandstand complete with all necessary amenities.

The report rules out slot-machine gambling at the Meadowlands, despite its ideal location, in deference to Atlantic City casino interests. The brunt of the report’s recommendations are focused on Atlantic City’s casino industry, which has struggled over the past five years in the face of new competition in neighboring states.

"This report is a blueprint that will guide our efforts in managing and protecting our gaming, sports and entertainment resources more responsibly and reforming issues critical to New Jersey’s economic future," Christie said in a statement accompanying the report’s release. "I look forward to reviewing all of the Commission’s recommendations so that we can put these industries on a solid foundation and path to long-term economic growth and prosperity."

 

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