Gural: Negotiators Boycott Big M Meeting

The effort to lease, and keep open, Meadowlands in New Jersey continues.

Jeff Gural, who is in negotiations to lease Meadowlands from the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, said he met with unionized pari-mutuel tellers April 20 but six of seven members of the negotiating committee boycotted the meeting.

The negotiations are crucial to Meadowlands reopening for live harness racing May 7 and staying open for full-card simulcasts beyond May 14. The facility has long been one of the largest simulcast outlets in the country for harness and Thoroughbred racing.

Gural, a developer and owner of two harness tracks in New York, said in a statement he met with Bob Ligouri, head of the union; one member of the negotiating committee; and three mutuel tellers. He said the absence of other members of the committee “indicates that they are not really serious about collective bargaining and simply want to see the place closed for reasons that make no sense.”

Gural said he told those who attended he would retain most tellers at Meadowlands and offer others jobs at a planned off-track wagering facility he would build in nearby Bayonne. He said he was “insulted” given the effort he has invested—it included raising about $100 million—to keep the facility open, but remains “optimistic common sense will prevail.”

Gural put together the deal to lease Meadowlands from the NJSEA, which has been ordered by Republican Gov. Chris Christie to get out of the horse racing business. Gural found financing to eventually build a smaller grandstand on the property, but other issues, such as deals with unions, needed to be in place by an April 15 deadline agreed upon by Gural and Christie.

On April 14 the mutuel clerks’ union refused to vote on a proposal for wage concessions.

The NJSEA is in negotiations with Morris Bailey, a Thoroughbred owner and breeder who owns Resorts Casino Atlantic City, for the lease of Monmouth Park. Monmouth will open May 14, most likely under the auspices of the NJSEA; the state would like a lease agreement in place by June 1.