Eight entities have submitted bids to lease and operate Monmouth Park over a five-year period beginning June 1.
The package offered by the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority includes five off-track wagering licenses—one facility, in Woodbridge Township, is already operating—and 50% of the state’s share of revenue from 4NJBETS.com, an advance deposit wagering system open to New Jersey residents only. Privately-operated Freehold Raceway also shares in the ADW system.
Those who paid a $25,000 deposit March 10 are Betfair, which owns the Television Games Network and an overseas betting exchange; Greenwood Racing, owner of Parx Racing in Pennsylvania and Atlantic City Race Course in New Jersey; Frank Stronach, the prominent owner, breeder, and racetrack operator who is in the process of taking over racing properties held by MI Developments; Hialeah Park owner John Brunetti; the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association; developer Morris Bailey; Bernard Dowd; and Angelo Gordon Co.
The deadline to submit deposits and bids is March 31. The NJSEA is expected to act quickly to select a lessee.
Monmouth by law was awarded 141 racing dates for 2011, but the look of its schedule remains in doubt. The New Jersey THA has said it’s willing to accept fewer racing dates for more money like it did last year, but much hinges on negotiations with the new operator.
“One of the sports authority’s issues in the due-diligence process is the requirement that we race 141 dates,” New Jersey THA president John Forbes said in a recent interview. “The horsemen’s standpoint is 141 live dates is set in stone. It’s non-negotiable at this point in time.
“A number of people are interested (in operating Monmouth), and we’ll see who wants to step in. It’s semi-chaos until we find out who is interested and what their goals are. And, until then, no one can be certain about the future of racing in New Jersey.”
Given the lack of a casino purse supplement this year, a repeat of last year’s “elite meet” of 50 days with $50 million in purses and other incentives seems unlikely. Word is circulating a meet of about 80 days with average daily purses of $400,000 is possible should all parties agree.
The Newark Star Ledger reported March 10 there also could be six days of turf racing at the NJSEA-operated Meadowlands, which abandoned Thoroughbred racing after 2009, to ensure horsemen receive the statutory share of revenue from Thoroughbred simulcasts.
The live racing season in New Jersey begins April 28 with six days of all-turf racing at privately-owned Atlantic City Race Course.