NJ Panel to Address Racetrack Lease Bill

The New Jersey legislature will address parameters for racetrack lessees.

A Senate committee in New Jersey is scheduled to address legislation June 20 that would allow the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority to jointly operate Monmouth Park and Meadowlands pending licensing of lessees by the New Jersey Racing Commission.

The State Government, Wagering, Tourism and Historic Preservation Committee will discuss the legislation designed to keep the lease process moving forward. Both NJSEA-operated tracks are being turned over to private operators under a plan by Republican Gov. Chris Christie to get the state out of the horse racing business.

Senate and Assembly versions of the bills were introduced earlier this year. The Senate version now allows the NJSEA to “enter into an agreement with a private entity to lease a racetrack facility it owns to that entity, (and) it may further agree with that entity to jointly operate the facility during a transition period.”

The transition period would last until the lessee is licensed by the racing commission and “has received all necessary permits” to conduct racing. The transition period can be extended beyond one year but no more than two years, the legislation states.

A statement in the legislation says the measure “provides the (NJSEA) with the flexibility necessary to craft and effectuate a viable lease agreement for one of its racetrack facilities without disrupting previously scheduled events.” Monmouth and Meadowlands are in the midst of live race meets.

Developer Jeff Gural, a partner in two harness racetrack casinos in New York, is in the process of working out a lease agreement for Meadowlands. Resorts Atlantic City Casino owner Morris Bailey is doing the same for Monmouth.

The New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association is scheduled to vote soon--perhaps June 17--on a racing dates and purse deal offered by Bailey, who also owns Thoroughbred racehorses. Monmouth was awarded 71 live racing days for 2011, a schedule similar to that of last year.

The Senate committee June 20 also will consider a bill that would allow Atlantic City casinos and out-of-state racetracks to negotiate fees for full-card simulcasts. Currently New Jersey casino race books pay no more than 3.5% per dollar wagered for simulcasts (no more than 6% for the Breeders’ Cup World Championships).

Major racetracks in North America often get more than 3.5% from receiving tracks for their signals.