Proposed Lease of Monmouth Park Topic of Meeting

The second of the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority's Monmouth Park Stakeholders Committee meetings is scheduled for Feb. 11, and the topic is scheduled to be the lease of the racetrack. The NJSEA has said it's exploring the possibility of leasing Monmouth and Meadowlands.

A lease of Monmouth to three potential bidders, reportedly Churchill Downs Inc., Magna Entertainment Corp., and Pennwood Racing, which owns Freehold Raceway in New Jersey, isn't likely to be as attractive because recent comments by Gov. Jim McGreevey and casino industry representatives indicate there is little support for allowing video lottery terminals at the tracks.

According to a report in the Asbury Park Press, George Zoffinger, head of the NJSEA, saidresistance from Atlantic City casinos, which have the backing of McGreevey, could delay VLTs for the next several years. However, interest remains high among potential track operators, Zoffinger said, and a lease could have built-in amendments that would be triggered if additional gambling options were legalized.

Zoffinger said he and other state officials have been meeting with casino representatives, who may pay up to $25 million per year toward racetrack purses in exchange for a delay in racetrack VLT legislation.

Zoffinger told the Press he met last week with Donald Trump, whose company has three casino hotels in Atlantic City, "and he said he didn't think VLTs were good, even if Pennsylvania and New York put VLTs on our borders."

Monmouth and Meadowlands would be leased only if the state can benefit financially, and if the leasing plan has the support of community leaders, Zoffinger said.