In New Jersey, It Has Only Just Begun

The Report of the Governor’s Advisory Commission on New Jersey Gaming, Sports and Entertainment dropped like a thud in the middle of a lovely vacation in Sandbridge Beach, Va.

It didn’t spoil the retreat, but reading the document did keep me out of the pool for a little while. After re-reading it later—again and again in search of things of substance—some observations came to mind:

Politics, politics, and more politics;

Atlantic City’s casino industry, sort of the state's shadow government, has way too much influence in New Jersey;

Reports written by advisers with their own agendas are questionable at best;

New Jersey’s horse racing industry and related economic impact are too valuable to be dismissed in a 29-page report, parts of which aren’t worth the paper on which they’re printed;

Any government official that wouldn’t at least consider a casino in the largest concentration of humanity in the United States—and a casino with its own Turnpike exit to boot—is a fool. But we know at least one of those officials—a governor that has gone so far as to take on the powerful state teachers' union and seems committed to reform—ain't no fool;

The “offtrack betting without live racing” model recommended in the report is widely viewed as a major contributor to racing’s problems, and some in the industry are working to reverse that model;

Meadowlands is the most recognized brand in harness racing in North America, certainly worth more than a brush off or closure, and the apple of the eye of many North Jersey legislators that will have a say in enacting any recommendations in the report;

Whether or not it loses a few million dollars, this year’s Monmouth Park meet has set very positive tone for horse racing and represents a major change in thinking that shouldn’t be dismissed in a couple of sentences;

New Jersey should be proud to have a racetrack at which total handle is up 115%, something absolutely unheard of at a time of steady declines in pari-mutuel handle elsewhere;

Privately owned Atlantic City Race Course and Freehold Raceway need a lot of work (ACRC about 30 times that of Freehold) but must be in the mix of any reasonable, comprehensive plan for racing and gaming. The report—at times antagonistic toward the private owners—downplays the tracks’ value, which is a joke;

The casino industry may need assistance, but the report makes no mention of the hundreds of millions of dollars casino companies have sucked out of Atlantic City rather than reinvesting the money in the city;

Horse racing is to blame for many of its problems, and the casino industry is as much to blame for many of its problems. You'd think they would get along in this process;

"What's puzzling is the fact that nowhere in the (report) is the value of the horse industry to the state's agricultural business mentioned," Dr. Karyn Malnowski, director of the Rutgers Equine Science Center, said in her response to the report. It's actually beyond puzzling. It's downright laughable for a state with oh so much to lose should it all go away;

The often-criticized New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority has proven to be one of the top racetrack operators in the country since Meadowlands opened in the mid-1970s, so much so that racing alone produced hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue that was siphoned off and used for other programs;

Horse racing has legislative friends in high places;

New Jersey is broke and needs money.

Put all that stuff together and what you have is a report that needs to be completely reworked. And that may very well occur.

The sun isn’t setting on New Jersey racing, but it is rising on a process that, best guess, will take years and years to get through.
 

20 Comments

Leave a Comment:

Jennie

You wrote: The report—at times antagonistic toward the private owners ...; This is the only part of the report that I actually wanted to applaud. Greenwood Racing is a complete joke. Wish someone would kick them the heck out of New Jersey, for good. And what about those OTBs they were supposed to build in South Jersey?

27 Jul 2010 11:56 AM
Virgil Fox

Tom

Glad to hear you didn't let this garbage ruin your vacation.

I've yet to give it a close look, but from your observations, it sounds like something that you might encounter on The Onion web site.

Thanks for having the stones to call it like you see it.

I’m still mid-vomit after reading the PA Casino Tax Revenue from The Associated Press.

(even more so as I am currently unemployed).

Apples and Oranges, perhaps, but in both cases, loads of money and a bunch of dopes getting their pockets lined.

- Peace

27 Jul 2010 1:19 PM
WinnahPickah

The recommendations are disgraceful, to say the least. Delaware and Pennsylvania took AC's business, not Monmouth Park and certainly not The Meadowlands.

Many in NJ think this was a gift from the Governor to the state Senate President Steve Sweeney.

I hope MP sets an attendance record on Haskell Day and can contradict this political action.

27 Jul 2010 3:28 PM
needler in Virginia

Tom, well spoken! It sounds like the Kentucky legislators are closely related to those in New Jersey. Why is it that anything related to farming or agriculture (Gawd forbid!!) is casually cast aside as unimportant in favor of more pavement, concrete and big buildings? I fail to see how any legislator (and I use the term loosely) in ANY state can ignore ANY agribusiness that has found a way to survive in this environment. We used to be agrarian....fine, that's over......we are now NON-agrarian (for lack of a better term--I won't call us industrialized any more), but there are pockets of people all over the country who still raise SOME of our food, elements of our fuel and even our hobbies and means of entertainment. These folks deserve respect, recognition and support rather than disrespect and dismissal as non-relevant. When added all together, they represent a pretty fair-sized bloc of voters and I wonder if anyone at any level of government can see that? How is it possible to ignore the income brought in by these folks? How can you ignore the thousands involved in the horse industry alone who spend their lives caring for these creatures, and, by the way, seldom get rich doing it? That, of course, could be the very answer to all my dumb questions; they are NOT rich, and therefore have no influence at all.

Sad, sad, sad.............

Cheers and safe trips to ALMOST all.

27 Jul 2010 3:50 PM
G Steven McKonly

Never ceases to amaze me how politicians chase the next round of votes in an election. PA officials passed casino legislation to assist the horsemen, then grabbed revenue from tables games strictly for other state programs.

Next time you vacation at the beach, Tom, contact me, for I spend most summer weekends in Cape May County, and with the help of the Philadelphia Inquirer, I get a regular dose of what the people in Trenton are doing.

28 Jul 2010 8:41 AM
Art

Much is to be debated in this report but it finally does address one thing - the inequity between the private tracks and the state-held tracks in New Jersey, all being regulated by the state ... can you say CONFLICT? My hope is all will learn to survive without stepping on each other in order to do so. I applaud Christie for at least looking into the money pit that has become the Meadowlands & Monmouth Park. It was only about a decade ago that these properties were making millions for the state. The best run in the country? Maybe then, but sadly no more, and the taxpayers can't afford their current pricetag. Something's got to give.

28 Jul 2010 12:00 PM
normajean81258

And this is just one of the reasons we are on a 3 year plan to move OUT of this God-forsaken state!! Hope you don't mind, but you wrote it so much better than I could... I am forwarding this to our ignorant governor.....

28 Jul 2010 3:05 PM
normajean81258

Tom, I forwarded your post and if anyone would like to send your thoughts and suggestions to our governor, here is the link:

www.nj.gov/.../contact

28 Jul 2010 3:18 PM
AndyScoggin

It's simple. If the NJ Governor wants no part of horse racing then he is saying he wants no part of the takeout percentage NJ gets from racing. So, let racing keep that takeout for their purses and costs and things could be much better for racing.

Don't like that plan? Then how about this one. Legalize betting on pro sports and put the sports books at the NJ racetracks. This does not compete with Atlantic City. They can keep their slots!

28 Jul 2010 3:44 PM
Richard

G. Steven wrote, "Never ceases to amaze me how politicians chase the next round of votes in an election. PA officials passed casino legislation to assist the horsemen, then grabbed revenue from tables games strictly for other state programs."

Comment: This was one of the more predictable things to be derived from the casino haul in PA. ;Don't look for a turnaround; but, rather, for more of the same.

28 Jul 2010 4:45 PM
The_Knight_Sky racing

I agree with AndyScoggin.

Have an entrepreneurial type purchase the tracks for $1 and relieve the state from its responsibilities.

Then utilize the share of takeout percentages for the purses, capital improvements to the racetrack, marketing. It would do wonders towards building a self-sustaining business model.

This is a golden opportunity to move forward.

Think of it .. a horse racetrack working for the horsemen, its employees and horse racing fans by providing just that...QUALITY HORSE RACING.

28 Jul 2010 4:52 PM
needler in Virginia

Dear KnightSky Racing....that's not a bad idea at all; in fact, there's NO WAY it could be worse than what's happening right now!! Why not give 'em a go, and then the "legislators" wouldn't have to worry about doing the job right?

Cheers and safe trips to most.

28 Jul 2010 7:25 PM
The_Knight_Sky racing blog

WinnahPickah wrote:

I hope MP sets an attendance record on Haskell Day and can contradict this political action.

_________

The all-time Haskell Day record is 53,638 set in 2003. That should stand given the fact that many of us now have the option to participate from OTWs and NJAW around the state.

But what would send a strong message of support for NJ racing would be for the Haskell Day all-sources handle record to fall.

That stands at $17,642,955 set in 2008.  

28 Jul 2010 8:04 PM
Joe Pardi

It is now time for the gaming people to come together and lets put slots at the tracks and partner with the casinos on the profit. Just take the Meadowlands with slots and all the casinos and get its part of the profit. So now everyone is in the same boat.

28 Jul 2010 10:38 PM
Bobbie Jean

I keep hearing how successful the Monmouth meeting is. How do the track workers who are working only 3 days a week instead of 5 feel about it? How do the businesses around Monmouth like the reduced traffic to their businesses?

28 Jul 2010 10:47 PM
RD

As we have come to learn, Governor Christie lied to the horsemen - both standardbred and thoroughbred-during his election campaign. He said he knew how vital the industry was to the state and he would be very supportive of it during his tenure as governor. This was said at a campaign fundraiser at a standardbred farm. He shook hands, took everyone's checks and drove away. I'm embarassed to say I worked on his campaign to get elected. I won't make that mistake again. For all his bluster- he is another in a long line of liars who have run the Garden State.      

29 Jul 2010 8:09 AM
The_Knight_Sky racing blog

Mr. Lamarra wrote:

Privately owned Atlantic City Race Course and Freehold Raceway need a lot of work (ACRC about 30 times that of Freehold) but must be in the mix of any reasonable, comprehensive plan for racing and gaming.

___________________

Absolutely. What is the NJ Racing Commission doing to make progress on that front?  

Is Aycee's owner Greenwood Racing going to be handed again their "simulcasting license" or a full-fledged racing license?

Now more than ever Atlantic City has an opportunity to become a major player. Horsemen need more opportunities to race in New Jersey. Burdening the Monmouth Park racing calendar with live programs all the way into November isn't the best way to do it.

Greenwood Racing must start to expand on the interest shown in the live racing product earlier this spring at Aycee. At the same time they must start to make capital improvements to this historic racing venue. Letting this racetrack die would be extremely regrettable.

29 Jul 2010 11:08 AM
Ghostzapper

Although I do not like what Christie said following the "report," I can't believe he is that ignorant about the industry. He must have something up his sleeve. Although the way he shook Obama's hand the other day, it really makes me wonder about the man.

29 Jul 2010 12:50 PM
Bellwether

LOVELY SANDBRIDGE VA...@ LEAST IT$ GETTING THE EXPOSURE WE WANT...ty...

31 Jul 2010 4:32 AM
HOWARD SMITH

IF NJ WAS TO BRING BACK ACRC, WHAT WOULD IT TAKE TO BRING THE OLD TRACK UP TO PAR? IN THE PICTURES THAT I'VE SEEN THE PLACE LOOKS REALLY RUN DOWN, BROKEN WINDOWS, CHIPPED PAINT(EVERYWHERE). THE TOTE BOARD LOOKS LIKE ITS IN A 1,000 PIECES. THE GRANDSTAND LOOKS LIKE IT'S READY TO FALL DOWN, THE SEATS LOOKS LIKE THEY ARE FROM THE 40S AT BEST. THE OUTSIDE CONCRETE AREA HAS WEEDS. IN MY MIND IT LOOKS LIKE IT WOULD NEED MILLIONS JUST TO BRING IT BACK, AND EVEN MORE TO MAKE EQUAL WITH ITS SISTER TRACKS. IN THE EARLY 80S I WORKED THERE DURING THE SUMMER MONTHS. I LOVED THE PLACE, EVEN BACK THEN THE PLACE WAS RUN DOWN . THE BACKSIDE OF THE RACE RACK, THE BARNS WERE IN FAIR SHAPE, LIVING QUARTERS WERE FAIR AT BEST. THE FRENCHMAN KITCHEN WAS A GOOD PLACE TO EAT. I JUST THINK THAT IT WOULD COST $10M MINIMUM TO BRING IT BACK. I WOULD LOVE TO SEE THIS TRACK HAVE 90 RACING DAYS AGAIN. WAS AN AWESOME PLACE TO WORK DOING THE LONG AGO SUMMER DAYS. SOMEDAY MY WIFE AND I HOPE TO MAKE UP THERE FOR A DAY OF FUN AND I HOPE I COULD WALK AROUND AND SEE THE OLD TRACK AND THE BACKSIDE TOO...SO IF ANYONE SEES THIS AND YOU HAVE THE POWER TO LET ME DO THIS ....PLEASE EMAIL ME AT HOWARDSMITH1000@YAHOO.COM

25 Oct 2010 4:41 PM

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