Without a purse supplement from the state and an average daily purse distribution of less than half of what it offered in 2001, business at the current Meadowlands meet has been called "really bad" by an executive of the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, which owns and operates the northern New Jersey track.
"It's close to being a disaster at this point," said Bruce Garland, executive vice president of racing for the NJSEA. "From mid-October until now, the numbers have just fallen off the face of the earth. The racing product is not being bet either on-track or off-track. We've got fewer horses in every race, less races, and the combination has put us in a downward spiral."
On Nov. 11, Garland said that, in the last month, total handle on live racing has been off between 30% and 50% on many days. On Friday, Nov. 8, total handle was down more than $600,000 from 2001.
Meadowlands offers daily purses of $150,000 a day, far less than the record $368,000 offered last year. A purse supplement was withheld by Gov. Jim McGreevey soon after he took office in January due to a huge deficit in the state budget.
Combined with Monmouth Park's 79-day schedule, Garland said there just wasn't enough purse money to support a 141-day season, the minimum stipulated in the off-track and account wagering legislation passed in 2001.
Recently, horsemen and the NJSEA were trying to work out a 100-day, all-at-Monmouth schedule for 2003, but Garland said horsemen want a $34-million purse guarantee.
"We just can't get that kind of money," Garland said. "Right now, I'm looking at 92 days at Monmouth and 49 at Meadowlands for 2003. That's what the law calls for."