The New Jersey Racing Commission Dec. 22 awarded full racing dates for 2011 and also licensed four off-track wagering facilities for the coming year.
Dates awarded to the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority for Monmouth Park and Meadowlands are expected to change pending action on racing-related legislation by the state General Assembly. The racing commission awarded dates according to state law that mandates minimum numbers.
The NJSEA was granted 141 days of Thoroughbred racing, but Monmouth officials and horsemen would prefer a schedule similar to that of 2010, when 71 days were offered, including a high-profile 50-day meet in late spring and summer that produced triple-digit percentage gains in pari-mutuel handle.
Meadowlands was granted about 140 days for harness racing, but that, too, is expected to change. A private investor has worked out a deal with Republican Gov. Chris Christie to privatize racing at Meadowlands; he has the first three months of 2011 to put a plan together or live racing will cease, according to the deal.
Harness interests in New Jersey have said they would prefer a shorter meet with higher purses similar to Monmouth.
Legislative action is key to the New Jersey racing schedule. One bill calls for about $30 million—$10 million a year over three years—to shift from regulation of Atlantic City casinos to racing to serve as a bridge until other revenue-generating initiatives are in place. Purse supplements paid by the casinos to keep racing from lobbying for gaming ended this year.
Thus, the actual Monmouth schedule remains in flux. In 2010, the shore-area track opened in late May with racing three days a week through August, and two days a week in September, October, and most of November.
As for the privately owned tracks in the state, Atlantic City Race Course will offer six days of turf racing in late April and early May, while Freehold Raceway will run about 160 days of harness racing.
The NJRC had awarded the dates earlier in the fall but Christie vetoed the action.
OTW facilities in Bayonne, Toms River Township, Vineland, and Woodbridge Township were licensed for 2011. The NJSEA operates the Woodbridge parlor and plans to build one in Bayonne; Pennwood, a partnership of Greenwood Racing and Penn National Gaming, operates the Toms River parlor; and Greenwood owns the Vineland betting facility.
The NJSEA had requested the racing commission deny the licenses of the two betting parlors owned by the private interests because of legal issues related to a lawsuit PNGI filed against Greenwood over a planned South Jersey OTW facility that hasn’t been built. The NJRC chose to defer action on the matter.
“Everything was licensed,” said Chris McErlean, vice president of racing for PNGI and president of Freehold, which kicks off live racing in New Jersey Jan. 1, 2011.