Atlantic City Meet to Expand in 2008

Atlantic City Racetrack, which has conducted only short, four-day meets in recent years, is poised to run a 20-day meet in 2008, as requested Nov.15 at a New Jersey Racing Commission meeting in Trenton, N.J.

Maureen Bugdon, president of ACRA Services, which is a subsidiary of parent company Greenwood Racing, told the commission that the Hamilton Township Planning Board approved rezoning measures Nov. 9 for the racetrack site, and the Hamilton Township Committee will have until Dec. 5 to issue final approval. Once final approval is given, Greenwood can move forward with plans to redevelop the property.

"The goal for 2008 is to be up and racing, with a new grandstand, by Spring, assuming all governmental approvals are forthcoming," said Hal Handel, chief executive officer of Greenwood. "My best guess would be that we'd run a four-week race meeting of four days a week for 16 days, with upside to 20, depending on need for dates and the demand by the public."

Atlantic City's four-day meets have been contested strictly on turf, and Handel believes that would also be the case with the 20-day meet in '08.

"It probably would be turf only, with a dirt option down the road, again depending on developments," he said.

Horses for the four-day meets have been required to ship in and ship out the same day, but Handel thinks barns housing about 80 horses would be refurbished for the longer meet in '08.

While Atlantic City has not exported its simulcast signal in recent years, attendance at the four-day meets has averaged more than 5,000 per day, which has prompted Greenwood to request additional days. The four-day meets were conducted primarily to keep the track's year-round simulcasting license.

In 2007, Atlantic City will run April 25-26 and May 2-3.

In other Commission news, a final determination was issued that endorsed the creation of an off-track wagering facility in Berkeley Township, at the site of an abandoned Grand Union supermarket but located close to a senior citizen development. The site selection is opposed by residents of nearby Holiday City, who are concerned about crime. Last month, Berkeley Township officials filed suit, claiming the nearby Toms River Township Planning Board should have performed a full-site plan review of the proposal.

The NJRC's final ruling now goes to the state attorney general, who has 14 days to approve it or mandate the NJRC take a second look at the proposal. If the attorney general takes no action, the determination becomes final.

The New Jersey Sports & Exposition Authority is set to receive the license for the site, but would then it turn over to Freehold Raceway Off-track LLC, which would oversee the facility on a day-to-day basis.
Despite enabling legislation that was signed into law in 2001, no off-track wagering sites have opened in New Jersey. However, a site in Vineland in south Jersey, licensed to Greenwood Racing, is currently under construction on Delsea Drive and could open by January.

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