Bill Denver/EQUI-PHOTO

Monmouth Meet Called 'Soft' Thus Far

On-track business was down about 20% during the first month of Monmouth Park's meet.

Monmouth Park officials said two nearby off-track wagering parlors and skyrocketing gasoline prices have led to decreases in attendance and on-track handle nearly one month into the New Jersey racetrack’s 2008 meet.

Robert Kulina, vice president and general manager of Monmouth and Meadowlands, said it’s difficult to compare this year’s early results with last year’s numbers, because the track has run three more days and carded fewer races. The track will run 99 days this year, 21 more than in 2007, as mandated by the New Jersey Racing Commission.

Monmouth hosted the Breeders’ Cup World Championships last fall, and officials hoped it would spark increased business.

“The meet has been soft,” Kulina said. “We are down about 20% in on-track handle and attendance, but our out-of-state simulcasting handle has been strong. The new off-track wagering site in Toms River (about 40 minutes south) has had an impact on business, as has the off-track site in Woodbridge (about 40 minutes north).”

Kulina said the price of gasoline, which is above $4 per gallon in many parts of New Jersey, is also a factor.

“We’re probably tracking the national trend of business in racing,” he said. “We’re going to have a soft meet, but it’s a question of how soft is soft. Our stable area is full, but we haven’t been pleased with the product we’ve been putting out there. Hopefully, business will strengthen as we go on, but it’s a matter of the economy.”

Monmouth officials raised the price of parking and admission for 2008, with combined clubhouse admission and parking up $3 from last year. However, Lennon Register, who will take over as the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority’s senior vice president of racing in August, said he would likely “revisit” those price increases.

Register, who has worked for Pennwood Racing, a partnership between Greenwood Racing and Penn National Gaming Inc., will replace Dennis Dowd, who was named NJSEA senior vice president of legal and governmental affairs.