NJ Panel Gets Extension on Recommendations

A panel looking at racing and gaming in New Jersey got a one-month reprieve.

A transition team analyzing racing, gaming, and entertainment in New Jersey has been granted a one-month extension in making its recommendations.

The group, formed by Republican Gov. Chris Christie, was to present its report June 30. According to published reports, counsel for Christie told panel chairman Jon Hanson the report isn’t due until Aug. 1.

Perhaps by coincidence, Aug. 1 is the date of the $1 million Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park. Haskell day is the biggest day of the year for Thoroughbred racing in New Jersey.

The letter to the panel attributed the delay to “additional matters” that have come up, not a lack of consensus, the Press of Atlantic City reported June 30.

Numerous bills involving racing and gaming have been introduced in the New Jersey legislature this year, including one for online sports wagering and another to authorize a betting exchange operated by the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority. The betting-exchange legislation unanimously passed the state Assembly June 28.

In addition, a drastic experiment to cut Thoroughbred racing days in half to triple averate daily purses at Monmouth Park has proven a major success thus far. The plan came to fruition earlier this year after Christie formed the panel.

Members of the panel met at Monmouth June 25 to discuss the experiment. Thorough the first 14 days of the 50-day “million-dollar” meet, total handle was up 129.4%, ontrack handle had increased 56.2%, and attendance had jumped 23.8% when compared with the same racing days in 2009, according to figures released by NJSEA-operated Monmouth.

In interviews the week of June 19, New Jersey racing industry officials indicated the meet results thus far are a major factor in any future plans for the state. They are hoping it leads to a recommendation the horse racing and breeding industry gets some revenue from gaming, or other assistance, in the future.

“We’re very hopeful in getting a deal done,” Monmouth vice president and general manager Bob Kulina said. “They’re looking at our numbers and are extremely pleased and happy (with the experiment). It’s easier to be on a winning team than a losing team. I’m cautiously optimistic this will continue.”

Though the premier meets at Saratoga and Del Mar begin later in July, Monmouth is just now entering the heart of its summer season. School is out, and the track’s major races have yet to be held.

“Our biggest goal right now is funding for the future,” said trainer John Forbes, president of the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association. “People are encouraged. So far, the meet is going great.”

The delay in preparing the Christie panel’s report also comes as the state legislature takes a summer break.