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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Nothing is Easy in New Jersey

With less than a month before the NJTHA is due to take over operations of Monmouth Park from the State of New Jersey, John Brunetti, of Hialeah Racetrack fame is contesting the awarding of the lease to the thoroughbred horsemen, contesting he should have been given an opportunity to bid for the track.

As you may recall, Brunetti did not win the right to operate Monmouth Park when Morris Bailey won the original right to operate the track based on the RFP.  Brunetti is arguing with grant money being offered to operate the meet this year changes the terms of the RFP which means the lease should be put out for rebidding.  In addition, Brunetti's lawyers are claiming Dennis Drazin's involvement with the negotiations for the track suggests impropriety as Drazin resigned from the NJRC to become a negotiator for the NJTHA and has been rewarded with a consulting contract to manage the day-to-day operations of Monmouth.

I would be surprised if the contact with the NJTHA is overturned, after all the appeal will be heard by a NJSEA official.  Of course, the question may be what happens if the hearing officer turns down Brunetti's complaint; does this dispute head into court?

Nothing is easy in New Jersey.  I will leave it to the legal beagles to decide whether or not the grant constitutes a significant change to the original RFP.  My guess is no; an argument could be made like the Meadowlands, the lease was issued on an emergency basis which doesn't require bidding.  The state would have been required to operate the meet this year or close the track when Morris Bailey backed out of the original agreement and the $4 million grant basically compenstates the NJTHA for stepping in and operating the track this year at the last minute to get the State out of the racing business.  

How does this impact the New Meadowlands?  I suspect nothing substantially, but uncertainty is the last thing racing needs in the state after a couple of years of turmoil.  After all, you never know what may pop up.

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