NJ Lawmakers Call for Racing Study Group

New Jersey lawmakers want a study group for horse racing formed as soon as possible.

Two New Jersey lawmakers have taken a bipartisan approach in urging the governor to quickly form a committee to examine the state and future of the horse racing and breeding industry.

Senate President Richard Codey, a Democrat, and Sen. Jennifer Beck, a Republican, sent a letter Nov. 18 to Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine, who plans to have a study group's report delivered by the summer of 2010. Discussion of racing’s problems and an effort to find solutions are just one provision in the latest purse supplement agreement between the state and Atlantic City casinos.

The casinos will provide most tracks in the state with $90 million over three years. There is no plan for beyond 2010.

“The horseracing industry in New Jersey is vital to our economy and a major source of open-space preservation,” Beck said in a statement included in a joint release. “It is imperative that we find a long-term solution to keep the industry viable and competing with neighboring states.”

“The recently signed purse supplement was a short-term solution for an industry with longer-term issues,” Codey said in his statement. “If we don’t move quickly, we’ll be left in the starting gate while other states race to the prize.”

New Jersey already is surrounded by states—Delaware, New York, and Pennsylvania--with racetracks that offer casino-style gaming. The newest threat, particularly to The Meadowlands and Monmouth Park, is a video lottery terminal casino slated for Aqueduct in New York City.

Beck’s district includes Monmouth and Freehold Raceway, a harness track locked in a dispute over the about $7 million for purses it is scheduled to receive from the casinos. One of the track’s parent companies, Penn National Gaming Inc., isn’t comfortable with language that keeps it—not just Freehold—from pursuing gaming outside of Atlantic City should the opportunity arise.

The New Jersey Racing Commission meets Nov. 19 to award racing dates for 2009. Up for discussion is whether Atlantic City Race Course, located in southern New Jersey, should be granted a six-day, all-turf meet for next year or be required to race at least 20 days.

The proposed study group on racing will consider the future of Atlantic City, which hasn’t raced more than 10 days a year since the late 1990s, along with how the industry can obtain its own dedicated funding source.

Other states--most recently Kentucky and Ohio--have formed committees to examine the state of horse racing and breeding and recommend solutions for its long-term health. New Jersey, Kentucky, and Ohio are three racing states without on-track gaming.