Jersey Legislation Said to be in Pipeline

After months of sometimes contentious negotiations between racetrack operators and horsemen in New Jersey over details in legislation that would legalize account and off-track wagering, an agreement apparently has been reached that could expedite the passage of the bill, perhaps this spring.

Barbara DeMarco-Reiche, a lobbyist for the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, said one of the main sticking points between the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, which operates Monmouth Park and Meadowlands, and horsemen in the state was the number of live racing dates. Licensees who operate account wagering services or off-track betting facilities would be required to adhere to live-race protection requirements.

DeMarco-Reiche said the number of live racing dates was "compromised" by both sides, though she could not provide a specific number. The NJSEA wanted 120 days of live racing, while Thoroughbred horsemen had pushed for a minimum of 170.

"Both parties are committed to getting this legislation done," DeMarco-Reiche said.

It isn't known whether lawmakers would make changes to the original legislation conditionally vetoed by Gov. Christie Whitman in September, or introduce an entirely new bill in the House and Senate.

John Samerjan, vice president of public affairs for the NJSEA, said there was some talk about reintroducing the original bill in the legislature. " 'Hopeful' is probably the right word to use to describe the attitude of the parties involved in getting a bill passed," he said.

DeMarco also said a bill was scheduled to be introduced by lawmakers John Bennett and Martha Bark Thursday in the Senate that would allocate a combined $18 million in purse supplements for Thoroughbred and Standardbred racing. A similar bill passed the Assembly on Dec. 11.

The supplement, if approved, could boost daily average purses to about $300,000 at Monmouth Park, which opens in late May, and also support purses at the fall Meadowlands meet.