NJSEA Boss: Industry Will Work to Find Answers

In response to a statement by an official with Gov. Jim McGreevey's administration that a proposal to place video lottery terminals at Meadowlands "is very unlikely," the head of the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority said other avenues will be explored in order to keep the state's racing industry viable.

"I don't think VLTs are the only answer to keeping the industry healthy," George Zoffinger, president and chief executive officer of the NJSEA, told The Blood-Horse. "We'll deal with this issue and act accordingly...We'll consult with leaders of the racing industry to explore other ways to keep racing at both Monmouth Park and Meadowlands strong."

On Jan. 18, just two days after a bill was introduced into the legislature that would bring VLTs to Meadowlands, a spokesperson for McGreevey was quoted in several published reports as saying the proposal was taken off the front burner because of a strong "counter offensive" by Atlantic City casinos and Sen. Bill Gormley, a Republican from Atlantic County who is a strong advocate for the casino industry.

The racing industry said the time was right to put VLTs at Meadowlands, not only to help the industry but to help plug a $5-billion state budget deficit.

Francis "Bud" Keegan, president of the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, said he hopes "later on down the line, Gov. McGreevey will reconsider implementing VLTs. Our industry is in peril, and unless we can get help for purses, we won't be able to compete (with neighboring states should they implement racetrack gaming)."

Said Sen. Joseph Suliga, sponsor of the VLT bill: "Obviously, without the governor's support, it makes it much more difficult, but I'm still a legislator and I'm going to push forward with my idea."