As I suspected, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie refused to take the bait and enter the 2012 Presidential sweepstakes. A smart move for Christie, but as Christie says no, a fleeting moment of hope for racing was crushed. Unless a court rules against Christie, there will be no subsidy for racing through 2013; a good chance no racino during this period as well. Horse racing will need to survive on its own through the innovations of Jeff Gural and the SBOANJ; through whoever runs Monmouth Park (we still haven't heard Morris Bailey's objections have been officialy satisfied) and the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association. In otherwords, racing needs to be the product. As for Freehold Raceway, the clock is ticking; the question being does Freehold become another Atlantic City Race Course, running a brief racing meet (not as short), or does it join the ranks of racetracks that have become a distant memory?
Make no mistake, I still believe a casino will come to Northern New Jersey, most likely at the Meadowlands unless the Democratic machine in Newark has its say and gets it diverted to Newark (who thought they would get an arena?). But I don't see it happening during the current term of Governor Christie unless there is a coup in the Democratic leadership after this year's election which unseats Senator Sweeney from the position of Senate President. My guess is if Christie gets elected for a second term, his objection to a North Jersey casino will weaken once he no longer needs to depend on the GOP in South Jersey to win re-election. By that time, it will become evident that the Atlantic City experiment has failed as the saturation of full casino gambling in surrounding states, including New York, convinces all that convenience gambling wins out over destination gambling in Atlantic City. But until this realization takes place, racing will have to do it on its own.
Fortunately for Gural, the Meadowlands is on the left side of the Hudson meaning he has a horsemen's group who considers itself partners instead of adversaries. As much as Gural's goal is to get people in the grandstand, it is important to get the OTW network built out as quickly as possible, introduce exchange wagering, implement single pool wagering, and yes, cut takeout rates to induce gamblers to play the Meadowlands despite the quality of racing stock not being as it once was.
I've said it for a while, the Meadowlands is going to be a working laboratory. If the Meadowlands becomes a success as an entertainment destination with racing being the main attraction, it may be the model racetracks around the country will adopt, be they racinos or non-racinos.
Let the grand experiment begin.