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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A New Low, Failing Bill in Illinois = Salvation of Racing in New Jersey?

Who would have thought we would see the day. On Thursday night, there is a race for $7,500 claimers at the Meadowlands. This is lower than the 10K claimers they raced the first year when they didn't know how successful they would be.

As reported in various media reports, a proposal in Illinois to allow slot machines at the racetracks is likely going to fail; one reason is Arlington doesn't want to share the profits from slot machines with casino companies. While the entire bill allows for other things, there is one part of it which may help save racing in New Jersey and could be a model for the entire nation. The provision in question in the Illinois bill would allow riverboat concerns who already are licensed in the state to rent space at the tracks and set up slot parlors.

With some changes, the concept behind this bill is what is needed in New Jersey. Let's modify the proposal a little:

Any casino licensee in the State of New Jersey may lease part of a racetrack permit holder's facilities for the installation of VLTs and if the Constitution of the State of New Jersey is modified, offer any other games permissible at casinos within the state provided no less than 90 days of live standardbred and/or thoroughbred racing is conducted at the respective facilities depending on the breeds racing the year prior to this legislation and year round simulcasting is offered. Purses at each meet are to be no less than 120% of the average daily purse and no less than 80% the total purses offered the year prior to the legislation. As part of the lease, X percent of the gross revenue will be paid to the track permit holder of which 1/3 may be retained for profit; 1/3 for capital infrastructure of the racing facility and racing advertising; 1/3 will be contributed to the purse account. Should the permit holder no longer race the minimum number of days required by this act, the license to operate VLTs and other games will be revoked.

Under the provisions of this legislation, VLT implementation will be restricted to Atlantic City Race Course, Freehold Raceway, The Meadowlands and Monmouth Park; no off track wagering facility will be permitted to offer VLTs or table games.

A casino licensee may not purchase a racetrack facility or hold a permit for parimutuel racing. This restriction will not prohibit a non-gaming subsidiary of a parent casino company from acquiring a racetrack facility.

Think conceptually of this proposal, realizing some changes may be required. Here are the advantages of this legislation:

  1. Racing will continue as is (perhaps with a reduced meet to acknowledge the economic realities of the sport) and be protected on an on-going basis.
  2. Any gambling allowed in the state will be allowed at the tracks with these facilities not being at a disadvantage of other facilities in the state assuming a referendum gets passed. Also ensures no additional gaming sites are constructed. A game allowed in Atlantic City will automatically be allowed at the tracks, keeping them competetive.
  3. Allows Atlantic City casinos to run the non-racing games, thus eliminating their objection to expanded gaming. Allows horsemen to run the racing end.
  4. Allows Freehold, Monmouth and even Atlantic City Race Course to survive, getting the support of the t-bred industry.
  5. Should Pennwood not wish to remain in the state, they will be able to sell Freehold to another party for a good price.
  6. Ensures racing interest's are protected.

This bill could be a win-win situation for everyone in the State of New Jersey. The tracks/horsemen win; the casinos win; the taxpayers win.

The road to protect racing is there. We just need to take the first steps. Anyone see a problem with this proposal?

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