The New Jersey legislature has approved a deal whereby Atlantic City casinos will pay the horseracing and breeding industry $90 million over three years in return for a guarantee the tracks won’t pursue video lottery terminals during the period.
The state Senate voted 38-1 March 17 in favor of the measure, which also provides the casinos tax breaks on bets made for promotional purposes. On March 13, the state Assembly approved it by a 76-0 vote. Gov. Jon Corzine has said he will sign the legislation into law.
Still remaining are negotiations on how the $30 million a year will be spent by the Thoroughbred and Standardbred industries in New Jersey. From 2004-07, Thoroughbred and harness interests received a total of $84 million from casinos in the form of a purse subsidy.
Earlier this year, Freehold Raceway, a harness track, cut purses, and Meadowlands, which currently offers harness racing, was expected to do the same. The New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, which operates Meadowlands and Monmouth Park, advanced some purse money to maintain daily payouts.
Freehold has increased purses 7%, and could hike them again in a few weeks, according to the Standardbred Breeders and Owners Association of New Jersey.
“We will be sitting down with Sen. (Richard) Codey and Dennis Dowd of the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority to work on distribution of the funds, which will be split between the Standardbred and Thoroughbred industries,” SBOANJ president Tom Luchento said in a statement.
New Jersey’s live Thoroughbred season begins with six days of turf racing at Atlantic City Race Course April 23-25 and April 30-May 2. Last year, for four days of racing, Atlantic City paid an average of $153,585 per day in purses, according to The Jockey Club Information Systems.
The southern New Jersey track generates purse money through year-round full-card simulcasts, and in the past has transferred some purse money Monmouth. State regulators have told the track it must offer at least 20 days of racing in 2009, so it’s possible Atlantic City could share in the purse subsidy next year.
Monmouth, during its regular non-Breeders’ Cup meet in 2007, paid $366,774 per day in purses over 75 racing days. Meadowlands offered $292,735 in purses per day for its 41-day Thoroughbred meet last fall.
The casino subsidy is designed to keep purses competitive with those in neighboring states offered by racetracks with alternative gaming. Without it, there was talk Monmouth purses would drop to a daily average of about $200,000.