Jeff Gural indicated he is optimistic he can come to an agreement to lease the Meadowlands. If he is able to accomplish this, it can be an exciting time as he has indicated he is partnering with Cantor Gaming to raise the funds necessary.
If this deals goes through, it can be an exciting time for harness racing as Cantor Gaming and Gural have talked about taking on the rebate shops, offering new wagers and turning things upside down; something racing has needed for a long while. Of course, the devil is in the details and rest assured such talk is likely not to be appreciated on the other side of the Hudson River.
There is one problem. The unions have not yet returned Gural's calls. As you are aware, Gural needs concessions from the unions in order to make the deal work. No doubt, what we are seeing is a game of chicken being played; basically each side trying to strengthen their hands in negotiations. This is a game I expect the unions to lose because as painful as it will be for some of their members to lose jobs and/or accept wage cuts, the unions are not doing their members any service if they are all out of business. Plus, there is the nuclear option.
What is the nuclear option? It is something which is being discussed elsewhere in NJ governmental agencies. It is called outsourcing jobs. If you recall, legislation has been passed to allow the NJSEA run the Meadowlands until the new Gural team gets licensed by the NJRC. What happens if before Gural's team gets licensed, the NJSEA outsources all the jobs to a third party which is able to shed high salaried employees and/or offer them lower salaries and benefits? If the Governor is agreeable, and he shows no love for labor unions, the NJSEA could outsource the union jobs before the Gural team takes over, giving him the reduced salary expense. However, I expect cooler heads to prevail and the unions to begin negotiating once they've kept Gural cooling his heels.
But what about the April 1 deadline? I suspect the April 1 deadline to be somewhat artificial. Yes, the state may start claiming back the $1.2 million they advanced the NJSEA for purses and the summer meet not start on May 7, but if a deal is reached within a reasonable time, I doubt the Governor would refuse to accept an offer.
No, we are not there yet, but I wouldn't bury the Meadowlands anytime soon..
Update: Taking on the rebate shops? Of course, it is all speculation at this time but I suspect the idea of taking on rebate shops may be connected to an idea originally floated at Tioga Downs regarding bringing the takeout rate down to what a casisno charges (9%). If they eventually get the takeout rate down that low, is there really a need for rebates? Again, the devil is in the details. We will learn more as time goes on.