Casino Purse Supplement Considered in New Jersey

Under a plan being considered by the New Jersey legislature, the governor's office, and the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, Thoroughbred and Standardbred purses could be supplemented by revenue from Atlantic City casinos, possibly this year.

Representatives from the three factions are hopeful the deal can be struck with the casino industry in lieu of the installation of video lottery terminals at racetracks. VLTs at tracks might require a constitutional amendment.

Among the details being ironed out are the amount of supplement and whether it would be for one or three years. Without a supplement, Thoroughbred horsemen have a 141-day guarantee from NJSEA for 2004, with purses expected to be in the $225,000-250,000 range. Monmouth Park would revert back to its traditional season (Memorial Day through Labor Day), while Meadowlands would run from early September through early December.

A casino supplement could boost daily average purses to $350,000 or higher.

One of the biggest supporters of an Atlantic City-funded purse supplement is Senate President Richard Codey, who historically has been an advocate for racing.

"We need some kind of agreement to increase purses from Atlantic City," Codey, the highest-ranking member of the state legislature, told the Press of Atlantic City. "It's the right thing to do."

Dennis Drazin, a prominent Thoroughbred owner/breeder who serves as counsel for the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, said he believes the plan supported by Codey is "excellent."

"It will enable the horse racing industry--Standardbred and Thoroughbred--to remain competitive, and I compliment Sen. Codey for his foresight and plan to help save racing," Drazin said.

Sen. Bill Gormley, who last year fought to keep VLTs out of racetracks, expressed concern the purse supplement, which could amount to $10 million to $20 million, could stifle casino growth.

"As long as Atlantic City continues to generate jobs and construction, then whatever that compromise might be (concerning the purse supplement) would be fine with me," he told the Press. "If in fact taking money for horse racing destabilizes the growth of Atlantic City, then I'd have a problem with that."