TRENTON, N.J. — A bill that would appropriate $20 million to boost horse racing in New Jersey was introduced on Sept. 24.
Sponsored by Senator Vin Gopal of District 11 in Monmouth County, home to Monmouth Park, and Senator Paul A. Sarlo, District 36, which includes, Bergen County, home of the Meadowlands, sponsored the bill.
The bill was referred to the Senate Appropriations Committee and would supplement the racing industry for the next five years.
For the fiscal year 2019 and in each of the four fiscal years thereafter, $20,000,000 would be supplied annually to the New Jersey Racing Commission to be used for horse racing purse subsidies. The Thoroughbred and the Standardbred industries would split the funds evenly. Monmouth Park would use the money to supplement overnight purses. The Meadowlands would get 60% of the Standardbred share for overnight purses; 16% would go to Freehold for overnight purses; 12% to the New Jersey Sire Stakes purses; 6% to purse bonuses for New Jersey sired horses; and 6% for breeders awards.
For many years the Atlantic City Casinos provided $30 million a year to the tracks to prop up the racing industry, provided they did not pursue slots, until Governor Chris Christie was elected. In 2011 the state-run Meadowlands and Monmouth Park were handed over to private entities to operate but efforts to bring slots or video gaming terminals to the tracks failed. Earlier this year, the state won a long federal legal battle over sports betting and now the tracks as well as the casinos can take sports bets.
The tracks, especially, Freehold Raceway, have struggled to attract horses enter its races which have lower purses than tracks in New York and Pennsylvania which receive funds from on-site casinos and other gambling. Freehold had to cancel its Labor Day card due to lack of entries. According to Freehold General Manager Howard Bruno, “With racing scheduled for Friday and Saturday, there weren’t enough horses to support the additional day. Overall, it is increasingly difficult for us to compete in a market where we have the lowest purse structure in the region.”
Freehold recently hosted the Open Space Pace, which aims to draw attention to the horse industry and how it protects open land in New Jersey.
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