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Saturday, September 12, 2009

NJ Gubernatorial Election to Decide the Fate of Racing

According to press reports another meeting of the Governor's Blue Ribbon Panel on Racing was held this past week. All the participants reviewed the Rutgers University study on what the economic impact of VLTs at New Jersey racetracks would have on the state, racing, and Atlantic City. Let me give you a quick recap of the meeting.

  • Racing interests call for a partnership between casinos and the racing industry to bring slots to the racetracks. NJ Racing needs to look like it does in surrounding states (VLTs).
  • The casino industry questions the validity of the study and insists VLTs will severely hurt the casino industry in Atlantic City.

In other words, nothing has changed. Three meetings have been held and I suspect the only issue which all sides agreed upon was the lunch menu.

Holding meetings before election day is a waste of time. Nothing is going to happen until this year's gubernatorial election occurs. The casino industry wants to see who the governor will be. Governor Corzine up to now has not been willing to challenge the South Jersey legislators who steadfastly oppose allowing VLTs at the racetracks. If the next governor is not going to be willing to take on the casino interests in the legislature, the casino industry will not cave in. Should the next governor actually have enough concern for racing and take on the legislators then you will see the casino industry make a deal. Until they have to make a deal, they will not.

There is about a month and a half left before the gubernatorial election. In Kentucky, once the VLT bill died in the state senate the horsemen realized they needed to mobilize themselves politically. In a special election, racing went all out for a pro-VLT candidate. It is time for NJ racing interests to do the same; find out if Governor Corzine is for the racing industry but just laid low in an effort to win re-election or is the Republican candidate Christopher Christie is their man. Once racing interests find out who their person is, they need to start rallying those in the equine industry and elsewhere to support the candidate which will benefit them the most. If successful, then the state legislators will realize racing can deliver votes for or against them.

I realize the temptation is to lay low in an effort not to choose the losing side and face the wrath of the victor. This approach has not worked as racing in New Jersey is dying a slow death. What does racing have to lose by becoming more proactive; the end result can't be any worse?

Better to go down fighting than die like sheep.