Gov. Chris Christie

Gov. Chris Christie

AP Photo

Christie OKs Monmouth, Meadowlands Agreements

State will renew its effort to find a private operator for Monmouth Park.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie Dec. 20 officially announced separate deals for the continuation of live racing at Monmouth Park and Meadowlands in 2012.

Full-card simulcasts at both venues will continue uninterrupted, as will the in-state advance deposit wagering system.

After about a year of negotiations, the Republican governor signed off on a 30-year lease of Meadowlands under the operation of developer Jeff Gural, who with partners owns two racetrack casinos in upstate New York. Gural plans to build a smaller grandstand at the northern New Jersey harness track.

Monmouth will remain in the hands of the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority for at least another year. The NJSEA and New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association signed a contract calling for 141 days of live racing at Monmouth in 2012; the number is required under state law unless horsemen and the track operator agree to a different schedule.

“This has been an arduous process, but one that I believe was necessary to ensure uninterrupted racing at Monmouth Park and the Meadowlands,” Christie said in a statement. “At the same time, we are protecting the public interest and preserving jobs at both venues and in New Jersey’s equine industry. Our transition to independent, privately operated horse racing facilities will continue in 2012, and I am as optimistic as ever that Monmouth Park will maintain its legacy as a premier venue for Thoroughbred horse racing fans for years to come.”

Monmouth will operate without financial assistance from the state. If it does race 141 days, purses will average $150,000-$175,000 a day, well below the $350,000 average this year for 71 days.

As part of the Monmouth deal, the NJSEA will renew its search for a private operator. Casino owner Morris Bailey in early December dropped his plans to lease Monmouth after the parties were unable to seal the deal.

Thoroughbred dates for New Jersey racetracks in 2012 have not yet been announced.