Racing-Related Bills Progress in New Jersey

Legislation to assist the racing industry passed a New Jersey Assembly committee.

Legislation geared toward the horse racing industry unanimously passed the New Jersey Assembly Regulatory Oversight and Gaming Committee Jan. 20.

The bills focus on expansion of simulcasts, privatization of Meadowlands, and racing dates, according to Assembly Democrats. They all were approved by a 5-0 vote, according to legislative resources.

“The horse racing industry is too important to the economies of communities throughout our state, but especially Bergen County, to let it waste away,” said Assemblywoman Connie Wagner of Bergen County, where Meadowlands is located. “We have a long way to go to ensure its success, but these bills represent our continued commitment to making it strong and productive for years ahead.”

One bill would allow bets to be placed at New Jersey racetracks, off-track wagering parlors, or casino simulcast facilities in advance for races not on a simulcast menu but imported by other wagering outlets in the state.

Another would permit the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, which operates Meadowlands, to enter into a joint operating agreement with a lessee to smooth the transition toward privatization of the North Jersey track.

A third bill would reduce legislated minimums for harness racing dates in the state with approval of the Standardbred Breeders and Owners Association of New Jersey. The minimum for Meadowlands would drop from 141 to 75; privately-owned Freehold Raceway’s minimum would go from 168 to 75.

“These bills all share one single goal—enhancing our horse racing industry to allow it to continue creating jobs and economic development throughout our state for years to come,” Assemblyman John Burzichelli said. “We’ve taken many steps in the past year to improve our horse racing industry, and these bills represent another step toward keeping it strong.”

Legislation already passed by both houses of the General Assembly would revise the OTW law, authorize exchange betting, and establish incentives for breed development.

As of Jan. 24 no action had been taken on the status of Monmouth Park’s 2011 racing schedule. By law, the New Jersey Racing Commission awarded Monmouth 141 Thoroughbred dates, but a reduction is expected pending negotiations.

Last year Monmouth raced 71 days. Purses almost tripled—about $20 million came from a now-expired casino purse supplement—and total pari-mutuel handle increased $123 million on the year.

Republican Gov. Chris Christie hasn’t yet said he will support a measure that would give racing $15 million for purses this year. The funds were approved by the General Assembly and await the governor's approval.