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Saturday, February 8, 2014

The Only Sure Thing in New Jersey is There is No Sure Thing

Everyone assumes casino gambling is eventually coming to North Jersey and most people claim it will come to the Meadowlands for the benefit of racing there and Monmouth Park (and probably Freehold).  Back in January of 2011, I said don't be so sure about that; specifically there are cities with a lot of power in the legislature who could make arguments for a racino.  Most people who read that column probably said 'Pshaw'.

In a meeting with the editorial board of the Asbury Park Press, Senate President Stephen Sweeney pleaded for people to give the Atlantic City Tourism District its full five years before deciding whether or not the saving of Atlantic City is a success (unlikely) or a failure (most likely).  That being said, the Senate President indicated when the time comes he may be open to allowing casinos in distressed cities like Camden, Newark, and even Jersey City.  Not on the list of potential casino sites mentioned are the Meadowlands and Monmouth Park.

Needless to say a casino in Newark(or Jersey City) would keep one likely out of the Meadowlands due to the proximity of the two locations; resulting in Jeff Gural handing the keys to the Meadowlands Racing and Entertainment back to the state and having them reimburse him and his partners for the construction of the new grandstand.

Gural wants harness racing to succeed at the Meadowlands and nationally.  However, to make the track profitable under the current model of simulcasting, a racino is needed.  Otherwise, more live customers will be siphoned off to a Newark casino and the track would likely bleed red ink.  While Gural does his best for racing, it can't be expected for him and his partners to throw good money after bad forever.

This is not to say a casino won't come to the Meadowlands, but it certainly is not a done deal.  The horsemen in this state, both thoroughbred and standardbred, better start educating legislators on the need for an eventual casino in East Rutherford, otherwise those assemblymen and state senators from the urban centers will once again put a knife in horse racing, especially when casino companies who operate in Atlantic City (with campaign donations to spend) would be more than happy to operate casinos instead of them being operated by companies who will share a percentage with horse racing.

Ohio Hijinx

Miami Valley Racing's grand opening night was killed by a power failure.  They didn't have the confidence in the emergency generators working so racing was cancelled and new grand opening is tonight with the opening night's card being moved to Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the former owners of Lebanon Raceway, which was replaced by Miami Valley are in court contesting the decision of the Ohio Racing Commission to transfer the license of Raceway Park to Dayton Raceway, seeking to stop the construction and opening of Dayton Raceway and its Hollywood Casino.  It seems Ohio law forbids the opening of another racetrack within a 50 mile radius of an existing raceway and since Dayton Raceway would be well within the 50 mile radius the lawsuit was initiated.  However, Ohio's legislature gave the racing commission a two year period to permit the moving of racetracks as a result of the legalization of racinos.  My guess is this case will eventually be defeated as it will come down to legislative intent.

Of course, this lawsuit is a smokescreen.  Does anyone really think the issue is the two racetracks will be within 50 miles of each other, especially since Miami Valley is racing a whole 60 days a year?  It is all about the casinos being so close to each other.  As in other states, racetracks are a means to gambling and nothing more.

That being said, one could wonder why the Ohio Racing Commission, which has been doing a great job of protecting racing when it comes to the construction of racetracks and ensuring live tellers are hired could have granted the movement of racetracks into the same markets.  It doesn't make good business sense for the success of racetracks with simulcasting and it certainly doesn't make good sense with casinos poaching each other's potential customers.

Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering Thumbs its Nose at Authority

A Florida Appeals Court ruling has affirmed the Administrative Judge ruling that the approval of Barrel Racing as a legitimate parimutuel form of wagering was improper as it in effect changed the rules without going through the required rule change proposals process.  As a result, Gretna Entertainment should have been denied a license and it should have been shut down.  Expect this case to go back to the courts as the Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering decided after the Administrative Judge's ruling to approve drop flag racing as a form of horse racing to get around the ruling.  Well, if approving pari-mutuel barrel racing was a violation of the rules, how is drop flag racing any different?

Unfortunately, this nonsense will continue for a while more.

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