The New Jersey State Senate Committee on Government, Wagering, Tourism and Historic Preservation has passed four bills to be voted upon by the full Senate which are geared to revive wagering on horse racing in New Jersey. The legislative leadership is hoping to have these bills and other related bills passed and to the governor by the end of November as time is running out for horsemen to make plans for next year.
Assembly Bill 1705 which was approved by the Senate Committee revises provisions of the OTW law. With the opening of OTWs being hampered by municipalities refusing to accept an OTW, the proposed legislation addresses this by taking away the municipalities ability to veto the opening of an OTW. To grease the wheels to possibly have towns asking for an OTW to be constructed in their borders, the bill would require the OTW to pay property taxes in addition to giving the municipality a portion of the gambling revenue (the carrot). This is not to say the NJSEA can just walk in an operate an OTW in a particular town; they still need to meet the local zoning requirements. In addition, the bill would permit OTWs to obtain special liquor licenses from the state if there is no available liquor licenses in the town. The bill will also permit non-track operators to open an OTW location (perhaps to allow the NJSEA to operate OTWs if they no longer operate a race meet and/or to allow a joint NJSEA/Horsemen partnership to operate the OTWs). Update: The intent is if no action has been taken by a permit holder on opening up an allocated OTW location by January 1, 2012, the horsemen will be given the right to open the OTW. If the horsemen don't open it, the OTW license will be up for bid to non-permit holders.
Senate Bill 829 provides for exchange wagering. Approval of this legislation would permit the NJSEA to operate or subcontract out the running of an exchange wagering system and authorizes the NJRC to set up the rules for operating the exchange wagering system. While the bill authorizes the operating of the exchange for New Jersey residents, it will allow out of state residents to participate in wagering provided their individual state approves of it provided federal law permits it. Without federal approval, exchange wagering would be limited to residents of New Jersey. The exchange would accept wagers on in-state and out-of-state races.
Senate Bill 2390 authorizes both Pennwood Racing (Freehold) and the NJSEA (Meadowlands) to offer only 100 days of racing with the written permission of the SBOANJ (the horsemen). Under current law, if only 100 days of wagering occurred at either track, OTW would not be allowed.
Senate Bill 2229 would permit racetrack permitholders to provide for single parimutuel pool for each running or harness horse race. The intention of the bill is to reduce the impact large wagers have on the mutual pools by combining all wagers on a single race into one pool.
There has been action on the other side of the legislature as well.
In addition to the aforementioned bills, there have been a couple of non-binding resolutions passed. The Assembly has passed a resolution urging the New Jersey Lottery to develop lottery games which encourage their players to visit state racetracks. To encourage visiting the racetracks, it may be games where the results may be dependent on the results of a particular race or series of races. A real interesting resolution calls for the NJSEA and New Jersey Network (NJN) to work together to show more races on television and promote New Jersey account wagering. NJN is currently a PBS station owned by the state but Governor Christie is looking to cut funding to the network which may result in it being privatized. Could this non-binding resolution taken to the extreme be the start of a partnership to make NJN a de-facto television channel for NJAW?
These bills would probably get approved by Christie. Other bills to replace the $30 million subsidy horse racing received in the past are still in need of being introduced. Unless a deal with the Governor is made beforehand, any bill to provide a subsidy likely faces a veto. The other bills mentioned here are long term solutions; a subsidy is a short term solution. Without a short term solution, racing at both the Meadowlands and Monmouth Park will be facing lean purses and lean times.