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Bill Provides $30M for New Jersey Racing

Racing would get $30 million from a casino redevelopment fund in New Jersey.

A bill that would shift $30 million from the Casino Redevelopment Authority to the horse racing industry over a three-year period progressed in the New Jersey legislature Jan. 10.

The money would be paid on a sliding scale: $15 million in 2011, $10 million in 2012, and $5 million in 2013 under the premise other funding would become available as legislation is passed to spur pari-mutuel wagering in the state. An expansion of the off-track wagering network and exchange betting are among the options.

The Senate and Assembly both passed the legislation, which now must be signed by Republican Gov. Chris Christie.

The funds would go directly to the New Jersey Racing Commission, not the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, which in the past received an annual payment from Atlantic City casinos in exchange for not pursuing alternative gaming at racetracks. The NJRC would divvy up the money; Christie as usual would retain veto power.

With the funds in the hands of the NJRC it would appear all racetracks could share in the money, including those that are privately owned. Atlantic City Race Course in the past received no purse supplements, while Freehold Raceway did only because of a deal between the NJSEA and the Standardbred Owners and Breeders Association of New Jersey.

Private track operators, without seeing the specific language, are hopeful they will share in any funding.

"I'm pleased to see that the NJRC will be charged with distributing any money to the four racing licensees so that North Jersey racing can benefit as well as ACRC and South Jersey," ACRC president Maureen Gallagher Budgon said Jan. 11. "South Jersey has certainly exhibited its love and commitment to this sport, and in looking forward, this will surely help create a level playing field."

ACRC has said it would add live racing dates if it received a portion of any purse supplements. The track is scheduled to race six days this spring.

The NJRC in December approved live racing dates for 2011 with the understanding they will be changed. Thoroughbred racing was approved for 141 dates in accordance with current state law, but it’s expected Monmouth Park will race about half those days, as it did in 2010 under a one-year legislative agreement.

Meanwhile, legislation that would allow Meadowlands to be operated jointly by the NJSEA and a lessee was introduced in the state Assembly. The measure provides for a one-year transition period for Meadowlands to go from state control to private control.

The state is negotiating with Jeff Gural, owner of two harness track casinos in upstate New York who would assume operation of Meadowlands. Christie has set a deadline of April 1 for the deal to be finalized.

“This is an important part of the plan to keep horse racing at the Meadowlands without cost to taxpayers,” Assemblyman Ron Dancer said in a statement. “This will allow racing to continue without interruption as all the details and licensing involved in the transfer is completed.”

Meadowlands will offer live harness racing through March 26. On Jan. 10 the NJSEA announced the track will be closed in April, reopen May 7, and race through Aug. 20. In all, 81 days of racing would be held in keeping with plans to reduce dates and maintain or increase purses.