Friday, May 13, 2011

Christie Announces Deal On Horse Racing

Making good on his commitment to put the horse racing industry on a self-sustaining path, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has announced that live racing at the Meadowlands and Monmouth Park will continue throughout 2011 and beyond. Beginning on June 1, both tracks will be in the hands of private-sector operators who, according to an agreement in principle, will assume the costs associated with running live racing at those venues. The private operators will also be responsible for all simulcast wagering at the tracks, the operation and future development of off-track wagering facilities and the continued operation of the State’s account wagering system.

“I was determined to bring this deal home,” Governor Christie said. “There are many beneficiaries: We’re saving a New Jersey tradition with the continuation of live horse racing at the Meadowlands and Monmouth Park; we are saving and creating jobs; and we are helping to preserve New Jersey farmland and a way of life for many people, from horse farm owners and employees, to jockeys to racing enthusiasts. I want to thank all involved, from staff in the Governor’s Counsel’s Office, to the executive staff of the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, to Mr. Gural and Mr. Bailey, as well as representatives of the thoroughbred and standardbred horsemen.”

“First, I want to thank Governor Christie and his staff for all their hard work on something I initially thought was impossible,” said Jeff Gural, the New York investor and developer who will assume control of and redevelop the Meadowland Racetrack. “The deal that we’ve reached together will be good for the taxpayers, good for horse racing and great for the Meadowlands. I look forward to returning the Meadowlands to its former glory and pre-eminent position in horse racing in the United States.”

“I’m excited by the fact that we are completing a transaction that will bring about a new era for horse racing in New Jersey and Monmouth Park,” said Mr. Bailey. “I want to thank all of the parties involved, especially Governor Christie and his staff and the thoroughbred horsemen, for working so diligently to meet the challenges we confronted. With what we are accomplishing, we are creating one of the premiere race tracks in the country that will provide an attractive and exciting atmosphere to appeal to established horse racing fans and, I believe, the broader public.”

Since December of last year, the NJSEA has been negotiating with Mr. Gural over the lease of the Meadowlands Racetrack. Mr. Gural will assume all operations at the track beginning on June 1. He has successfully re-negotiated labor contracts with track employees and has taken steps toward the development of an off-track wagering facility in Bayonne. He has also worked with the harness racing industry on a reduced slate of racing days for 2011. In addition, Mr. Gural plans to invest more than $90 million through the construction of a new grandstand at the Meadowlands and the development of an Off Track Wagering facility in Bayonne. These investments will create construction jobs for the State as well as permanent employment opportunities for New Jerseyans.

In April, the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority selected Morris Bailey as the winning bidder of an Request for Proposals for the lease of Monmouth Park. Mr. Bailey will assume track operations at Monmouth Park on June 1 as well. The thoroughbreds will also run a reduced slate of racing days for 2011, similar to the 2010 racing schedule. Mr. Bailey will also take over the operation of the OTW site in Woodbridge and will work with Mr. Gural on the development of future OTW’s.

Mr. Gural and Mr. Bailey are successful real estate executives with proven track records in the gaming industry. Both are also horse racing aficionados who are committed to reversing the decline of the industry.

Taken together, these deals will put the New Jersey horse racing industry on the path of self-sufficiency and, as a result, save New Jersey taxpayers millions of dollars annually and end the racing industry’s reliance on purse subsidies. Both private operators will pay property taxes and Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT payments) as required by law.

With this action, the Governor has demonstrated his continued commitment to ensuring the preservation of live horse racing in New Jersey. The agreements reached today are subject to the execution of formal contracts, formal board approvals and other regulatory approvals. In addition to today’s developments, Governor Christie has taken many other steps this year to provide the racing industry with the tools it needs to become a vibrant, self-sustaining industry.

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