Pursuit of Racetrack VLTs in New Jersey on Hold

Though a commission was recently formed to study the feasibility of putting video lottery terminals at New Jersey racetracks, Gov. Jim McGreevey apparently has abandoned the idea of including VLT revenue in the state's 2004 budget.

One member of the committee, Casino Control Commission chairwoman Linda Kassekert, told The Press of Atlantic City McGreevey "is doing the right thing" by slowing his plan to support horse racing and state coffers with racetrack VLTs. Kassekert said the governor needs to consider the impact of racetrack slots in neighboring states before he considers them for New Jersey.

"I think it's something that's going to require a lot of deliberative study, not something done overnight," Kassekert said. "Just resolving the constitutional questions is going to take some time."

"While video lottery has potential and is something the administration is looking into, it is not a realistic item for this year," said Eric Shuffler, a counselor to McGreevey.

VLTs were seen as a way the struggling Thoroughbred industry in the Garden State could keep pace with Delaware, which already has slots, and Maryland and Pennsylvania, which could legalize them in the near future. New York has a VLT law on the books but no machines are operating at the tracks.

The industry in New Jersey is also being hurt by a delay in the implementation of account and off-track wagering. Though both are legal, the law stipulates 141 live days of racing must be run in order for them to become operational.

The New Jersey Racing Commission approved a reduction to 120 live dates for 2003 and 2004, requested by both the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority and the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association.