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Saturday, June 6, 2015

No NJ Referendum in 2015?; Illinois Screeching to a Halt?

If the reports are to be believed, the chances for a casino referendum in 2015 for New Jersey is on life support if not already dead. reports not only was there a loud argument between North and South Democratic legislative leaders, but political boss George Norcross III and Senate President Sweeney are worried about a casino referendum changing the dynamics of the state Senate's leadership which is currently under the control of South Jersey interests.  The chances of the dynamics changing so Senator Sweeney will agree to post a referendum bill in the Senate continues to get less likely, especially as new proposals are proposed daily.

The latest proposal, by Senator Pennacchio (R) would get rid of the idea of full casinos in North Jersey and offer racinos at racetracks instead.  The proposal (SCR-123) would dedicate the state's share for state pension obligations and rescuing Atlantic City.  For horse racing?  Nada. The resolution proposes the racinos being run by a consortium of Atlantic City casinos.

But horse racing interests fear not, for the interpretative statement speaks of the 'benefit' horse racing would get.

The operation of slot machines at horse racetracks would be mutually beneficial to both the casino industry and the horse racing industry. Racetrack slot machine gambling would provide an opportunity for casino industry operators to expand beyond the boundaries of Atlantic City and reach patrons who may not otherwise consider traveling to that city to engage in gambling activities. For the racetrack industry, the slot machines would increase attendance, drawing patrons who may not otherwise consider traveling to racetracks at which horse racing is the sole activity on which to wager....

Needless to say, experience shows us that those who show up at a racino to play the slots will most likely stay in the slot section an fail to visit the horse racing side while  horse players will avail themselves of the slots in addition to playing the horses.  Also, nothing in this proposal guarantees horsemen a percentage of the slot revenue (it's safe to assume the tracks will get paid for housing the slots).

Lastly, Pennacchio suggests this would match NJ racinos against NY racinos, but this neglects the fact both Yonkers and Aqueduct will be coming full-service casisnos onces NY's moratorium on Southern New York casinos expires.  This would put the racinos behind the eight ball.  A responsible gaming proposal would recognize the fact full casinos will be coming just outside of New York City and not put NJ in the position to need a new referendum within a decade to catch up.

Bottom line, a proposal not worthy of horse racing's support.

Meanwhile, in Illinois, it looks like there may be a stoppage of harness racing come July 1 as the contract between horsemen and Balmoral/Maywood expires on June 30.  With so many moving pieces, it would be hard to come to a new contract without knowing the parameters you are dealing with; the best bet would be for extending the contract until things become clearer.    The issues which muddle things:

  • The riverboats and the tracks must reach an agreement by June 29, otherwise the tracks will be officially put up for sale.
  • The possibility of slots coming to the racetracks is up for discussion as part of the budget process.  While there is supposed support for such a bill, Prairie State horsemen have heard that before only to see it go down to defeat or not be voted on.
It's kind of hard to reach a contract when you don't know where (if) you will be racing and what the revenue sources for purses will come from.  Things will certainly be interesting in the next three weeks.

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