Some people are very excited about reports of a New Jersey Gaming Summit which New Jersey legislative leaders have announced to review the work of the Governor’s commission on Sports, Entertainment, and Gaming which will be issued in a report on August 1. The goal of the summit is to have legislative representatives, industry leaders, and policy experts discuss the report and focus on those recommendations which can be implemented by the legislature by the end of the year.
Well, if you are connected with the casino industry you should be excited. If you are from the racing industry, you should be suspicious.
It sounds nice when Senate President Sweeney is quoted as saying "Our casinos and race tracks are...major economic drivers"; it sounds like Sweeney sees the importance of horse racing. However:
Senator Jim Whelan (former mayor of Atlantic City) and Assemblyman John Burzichelli (D-Gloucester) will chair the summit. While there will be representation from North Jersey legislators, if truly looking out for the interests of racing and casinos, wouldn't one of the chairs be a pro-racing official or at least someone from North Jersey who has an interest in the Meadowlands to survive? It is clear where Senator Whelan’s allegiance lies and if you have any doubt as to where Co-chair Burzichelli allegiance lies, he was quoted in the Courier Post as saying "After 32 years of casino gambling (in Atlantic City), it's time to take a fresh look." The Courier Post article goes on to say Burzichelli predicts the summit would focus on the current impact of casino regulations and the potential role of Internet gambling. No mention of horse racing in his comments, is there?
Sweeney indicated the summit would concentrate on things which can be implemented this year, so VLTs; something he has said will never come to a vote in the Senate is off the table.
The location of the summit has yet to be decided. Will it be held at a neutral site such as Trenton, or will it be held in Atlantic City where it will be easy for the casino supporters to flood the public session? If held in Atlantic City, any facade of fairness that exists (if any does), will be gone.
If anything comes out of this summit for racing, it may be legalizing exchange wagering. There will be no VLTs and it will be highly unlikely there will be any purse subsidy coming out of this. Make no mistake; this summit’s priority is the casino industry. Horse racing is clearly going to be second fiddle here.