In New Jersey, State Assemblyman Fred Scalera is sponsoring a resolution calling for New Jersey to continue to hold the Hambletonian at the Meadowlands. The Hambletonian has been held at the Meadowlands since 1981 and after May 17, the NJSEA has the ability to automatically renew the contract to hold the event for another five years starting in 2013. If the NJSEA does not renew the contract, the race goes out to bid.
This is all and good, but who is going to foot the bill? In 2011, the NJSEA is guaranteeing a $1,700,000 purse for the Hambletonian and $850,000 for the Oaks. If less than $825,000 ($425,000 for the Oaks) of payments from the horsemen is received, then the NJSEA must match the horsemen's contributions. No matter how much the horsemen pay into the races, at least 40% of the purse must come from the NJSEA. The Meadowlands' contribution to the purses for these races comes from the horsemen's purse account.
The question to be asked is who's going to foot the bill to pay for the Hambletonian to remain at the Meadowlands under the current terms? It is easy for the Assembly to pass a resolution saying the Hambletonian and the Oaks should remain at the Meadowlands, but unless the state is willing to authorize VLTs or provide a subsidy, it is not realistic to expect the horsemen’s purse account to pay for these races; doing so will deplete a greatly reduced purse account at the expense of the horsemen who race in overnights. So assuming the state does not provide VLTs or subsidies, unless the legislature is willing to provide seed money to sponsor these great races, passing such a resolution is hypocritical.
Without VLTs or subsidies, the Meadowlands cannot afford the luxury of hosting the Hambletonian and Oaks under the current terms. The contract for the Hambletonian and Oaks needs to be renegotiated to reduce the guaranteed purses. A $1.7 million purse for the Hambletonian suggests a standardbred industry that is experiencing a boom; something which is clearly not the case. This is not to say I don't want to see the Hambletonian at the Meadowlands; I do. But not under terms that are onerous to the horsemen that support the overnight program. The contract for the Hambletonian and Oaks for the years 2013 and beyond needs to reflect the current economic realities of racing.
For those of you in the metropolitan NYC area, Meadowlands drivers and trainers will be tending bar this evening for the benefit of the Standardbred Retirement Foundation. Click on the following commercial for additional information.