Now that the deal has been completed for Jeff Gural and his group to takeover the Meadowlands, what does that mean to the Meadowlands and harness racing? Yes, with Morris Bailey willing to walk away from the deal, standardbred horsemen had to concede somewhat on simulcasting revenues. At this point, there is no sense to belabor the issue. If Jeff Gural thought it too onerous, he would have walked away as well. So basically, both sides are satisfied with the deal and if they are satisfied, who am I to have a problem with the deal?
With all due respect to Conan O'Brien, permit me to put on my outfit on and look ahead to the year 2013 when the new Meadowlands Grandstand opens.
In the Year 2013, the Meadowlands stakes program will continue to be presented at the reduced levels of 2012. Like it or not, the stakes program at the Meadowlands will be reduced from the current level. Even Hambletonian Day (we'll talk about that in a moment) will not resemble the program being presented this year; the purse account just will not support the current stakes program. Stakes races are great, but at a certain point, you need to take care of your horsemen who race day in day out. The good thing is these races will not disappear, they will be shifted to Tioga and Vernon Downs where slot revenue can be used to host these races.
In the Year 2013, exchange wagering will really take off in New Jersey. As predicted, it will draw more interest in the Meadowlands and Monmouth product and overall handle will increase even excluding the wagers that go through exchange wagering..
In the Year 2013, the Meadowlands, Tioga and Vernon Downs racing circuit will be established. Tioga will race Saturday, Sunday and Mondays Vernon Downs will be racing Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. This will allow the Meadowlands simulcast shows to consist of racing at the Meadowlands and Tioga or Vernon with some wagers requiring selecting winners at both tracks.
In the Year 2013, the Meadowlands will get the permission of the Local NFL teams to operate during preseason games as an experiment as track parking will be on Route 120, and not near the stadium. If successful, in 2014 the Giants and Jets will allow the Meadowlands to operate on game days.
In the Year 2013, the Hambletonian may not be raced at the Meadowlands. This is not even a question of being unwilling to dedicate the purse money to keep the race; they will. With the new grandstand only holding 5,000 people, where 29,000 people being the normal attendance of late, no more than 10,000 people can attend the race with the newly configured facility. The Hambletonian Society will need to decide if they want to race the event in front of 10,000 people to remain at the Meadowlands. If not raced at the Meadowlands, possible hosts for the Hambletonian will be Balmoral Park or Springfield if VLTs are legalized in Illinois; Indiana Downs or Hoosier Park; Yonkers Raceway at a leased Aqueduct where a three week meet will be held. (The conditions of the Hambletonian now allow the race to be raced over a 7/8th mile track).
In the year 2013, the Breeders Crown will return to the Meadowlands as the Meadowlands will race a two week fall meet. While the days of the Woodbine-Meadowlands rotation is a thing of the past, on occasion the Breeders Crown will make occasional visitis to the Meadowlands..
In the Year 2013, more tracks will adopt the Meadowlands policy of having simulcast races part of their wagering program. It is a win-win situation for everyone. The deal racetracks are making is they will pay the host track the same percentage as if the race was simulcasted into the track as usual. Why are host tracks happy with this deal? Look at the Meadowlands simulcast of the Molson Pace on their regular card. About $118,000 was wagered on the Molson Pace through the Meadowlands. Do you think if the race was just simulcasted in as part of the Western Fair card, they would have had anything close to the amount wagered on the race at the Meadowlands as part of their program? More likely, they would have had about $18,000 wagered on the Molson Pace. Those stakes races the Meadowlands gave up to Tioga and Vernon Downs will be prominent features of Meadowlands racing programs.
In the Year 2013, NJAW will be revamped. A partnership of Monmouth Park, Meadowlands, Tioga and Vernon Downs will create an ADW which will go nationally. With regards to wagers made on these tracks, the revamped ADW will be run as a non-profit with a minimal commission charged to cover the cost of operating the ADW with the balance of the funds being returned to the host track. They will offer rebates to gamblers. As for other racetracks without an equity stake, it will run as a traditional ADW with the commissions being split between the tracks with equity in the ADW. In 2014, other tracks outside of the original owners will join in and buy an equity stake and get larger shares of wagers on their own tracks.
In the Year 2013, the thoroughbreds return to the Meadowlands in the fall for a two week turf festival. Hey, they see how successful the mini-meet at Atlantic City is; it would be foolish not to have a similar meet at the Meadowlands. As Jeff Gural previously stated, there will be no dirt racing for the thoroughbreds.
In the Year 2013, realizing the Breeding industry continues to suffer in New Jersey, the NJSS will be replaced with a stakes program for NJ Sired or Bred. In a first for the industry, there will be significantly higher purses for maiden, non-winners of 2, 3, and 4 races classes for NJ Sired and Bred horses to stimulate the NJ breeding industry.
In the Year 2013, things will have stabilized at the Meadowlands with regards to horse population. The bottom claiming class will be $10,000. Two year old races will be limited to NJ Sired and Bred as well as horses eligible to open stakes at the Meadowlands.
In the Year 2013, Jeff Gural will announce the Meadowlands International starting in 2014. The International race will be run in the last week of the summer meet. After the Meadowlands meet, WEG will be offering an international race and the Grand Circuit tracks will offer international races up to the Breeders Crown to make it worthwile to have Europe and Australasia's best come to North America.
Unfortunately, all will not be positive....
In the Year 2013, the New Jersey Supreme Court will hand down their decision as to whether or not the Meadowlands has the right to exclude individuals with a NJRC license from racing at the Meadowlands. The argument by the lawyer for a certain trainer will argue while the Meadowlands is being operated by a private organization, they are leasing the property from a state agency which should be sufficient to deny the Meadowlands the right of exclusion. The decision will go against the Meadowlands.
In the Year 2013, there will still be no sign of slot machines at the Meadowlands. The entire New Jersey legislature will be up for election in 2013. If the Democrats maintain control of the legislature, the party bosses in South Jersey will make sure Senate President Sweeney will continue to oppose slots outside of Atlantic City. If the Republicans take control of the legislature, don't be too optimistic as Republicans tend to vote against any expansion of gambling.
In the Year 2013, Freehold Raceway closes. The Meadowlands and Monmouth jointly purchase the track and immediately retire the license and decide to convert the grandstand to an OTW and jointly operate it with the understanding it will be open only at night when Monmouth Park has live racing. Monmouth Park and the Meadowlands divide the the OTW licenses owned by Freehold Raceway.
In the Year 2013, Single Pool wagering is still a year away. It was to begin in 2013, but Canada and other racing states have problems with comingling wagers as single pool wagering is different from the traditional parimutuel model. Each state has to pass laws to allow wagers to be comingled into the Meadowlands pools. For one more year, gamblers will have to deal with late odds changes.
In the Year 2013, Joe Faraldo will (still) be criticizing Jeff Gural regarding his operation of the Meadowlands. Some things just never change.
Eye On Harness Racing - Check out later this afternoon at http://www.youtube.com/ustrotting for the latest installment of Eye On Harness Racing. This edition of Eye on Harness Racing will discuss VLTs at Ohio racetracks; a review of North American Cup Night at Mohawk; updates on "Back to the Track" and the "Strategic Wagering" projects of the USTA.