In late switch, Monmouth Park boosts casino expansion

by | Nov 8, 2016 | Breaking, Business, New Jersey, NJ Business

Eddie Plesa trainees gallop at Monmouth Park. Photo by Bill Denver, Equiphoto.

From a Monmouth Park release

In a late-breaking switch, officials at Monmouth Park on Monday began urging New Jersey voters to cast a “yes” vote on Question 1 tomorrow regarding casino expansion in the Garden State.

Representatives of the Oceanport racetrack reached an agreement with their counterparts at The Meadowlands that would ensure millions of dollars for New Jersey’s racing industry.

Question 1 on the Nov. 8 ballot asks Garden State voters to approve two new casinos outside of Atlantic City with at least two percent of the revenues generated earmarked for horse racing. Without enabling legislation guaranteeing meaningful sums to horse racing, the two percent included in the ballot measure was not enough to allow New Jersey racetracks to meaningfully compete with their counterparts in every surrounding state, all of which have casino fueled purses and revenues.

Under the terms of the ballot question, Monmouth Park is precluded from seeking a casino because it is too close to Atlantic City.  Monmouth and others concerned with the track’s future had urged a no vote on the question.

“For the horse racing industry – or more specifically, the Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association that operates Monmouth Park – the estimated revenue sharing would be around $2 to $3 million, the impact of which would be negligible,” Joe Irace, the Borough Council President of Oceanport, where Monmouth is located, had said in a statement in late October.  “Indeed, it is estimated that Monmouth Park needs anywhere from 30 to 60 million dollars annually to become competitive with out-of-state racetracks. When you compare the thinly dispersed revenues being offered by Trenton from the would-be-casinos to the negative economic impact on the whole of South Jersey, Monmouth Park loses either way. Monmouth Park is the shining jewel of thoroughbred racing on the Eastern seaboard and, as a resident and elected official of Oceanport, I can’t sit idly by and allow Trenton to drive it into the ground with poorly crafted legislation that is purposely designed to confuse the electorate.”

That all changed Monday with an agreement reached among the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association (“NJTHA”), the Standardbred Owners and Breeders Association and Jeff Gural at New Meadowlands Racing (“NMR”). The agreement will guarantee, in addition to the 2% from the referendum, that if Mr. Gural’s NMR is granted one of the two new casinos, he will dedicate $30 million per year for purses to be divided equally between Thoroughbreds and standardbreds as well as an additional $5 million per year dedicated to the operating expenses at Monmouth Park and $2 million more to allow for both dirt and turf racing at the Meadowlands beginning in 2019.

“Today’s agreement is a great one for everyone involved with New Jersey horse racing,” said Dennis Drazin, advisor to the NJTHA. “We urge everyone who works in horse racing, who is a fan of racing, who works on a farm or is anyway directly or indirectly related to this great industry to vote yes on Tuesday. A yes vote secures a bright future for Monmouth Park, New Jersey’s equine industry and the vast open spaces and green acres that it supports.”