NJ lawmakers to introduce legislation calling for purse supplements

By: Tom LaMarra

Posted: Aug. 29, 2018

Two New Jersey lawmakers plan to introduce bipartisan legislation that would allocate $20 million from the state’s general fund to supplement purses and breed development for Thoroughbred and Standardbred racing in the state.

The announcement came Aug. 28, several months after Monmouth Park officials confirmed they were actively seeking legislative support for purse supplements to help support the track’s racing program. Previous annual supplements from Atlantic City casinos that at one time totaled $30 million a year were terminated by former Gov. Chris Christie about seven years ago.

In a joint release, Democratic Sen. Vin Gopal and Democratic Assemblyman John Burchizelli said they would introduce identical legislation in the Senate and Assembly, respectively, that would instruct the New Jersey Racing Commission to allocate the funds based on specific percentages outlined in the legislation. Thoroughbred racing would get $10 million and Standardbred racing $1o million.

“The horseracing industry is critical to the economy of Monmouth County, which is home to Monmouth Park and Freehold Raceway,” Gopal said in the release. “New Jersey’s horse racing industry has faced challenges in recent years. Monmouth Park has struggled since losing a $17 million annual payment from the state’s casino industry to supplement purses in 2011, while the Thoroughbred industry has been unable to keep pace with tracks in neighboring states with purse structures bolstered by casino dollars.

“We cannot allow venues like Monmouth Park to falter. In ensuring this vital industry is properly supported, we secure direct and indirect jobs for countless hardworking New Jersey residents and maintain a stable local economy.”

“New Jersey’s horse racing industry employs thousands of New Jersey residents and supports a variety of industries, from horse breeding, to agriculture and manufacturing,” Burzichelli said. “This industry is far too important to the success of our great state to allow it to fail. We must do our part to support the horseracing industry and tracks like Monmouth Park to ensure the continued success of our economy and job stability for countless individuals.”

The legislation had not been introduced as of Aug. 28, but the lawmakers said it includes the following percentages:

Thoroughbred racing would get $10 million, all of it to support overnight purses at Monmouth. Standardbred racing would get $6 million for overnight purses at Meadowlands, $1.6 million for overnight purses at Freehold, $1.2 million for the sire stakes program, $600,000 for New Jersey-sired racehorses, and $600,000 for breeders’ awards.

The Thoroughbred Breeders Association of New Jersey noted via Twitter that supplemental assistance for the Thoroughbred breeding program is lacking in the proposed legislation.

The deal with the Atlantic City casinos, which in effect paid the horseracing industry money for purses in exchange for it not pursuing legislative approval for alternative forms of gaming at racetracks, spanned multiple three-year periods. It’s not yet known if the current proposal would be for one year—presumably 2019—or multiple years.

Monmouth paid roughly $15 million in purse money in 2017 for 50 racing programs. It raced a similar schedule this year, with another six nights of turf racing at Meadowlands still to come.

Dennis Drazin, who heads Darby Development, the company that manages Monmouth on behalf of its lessee, the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, said in the spring that even with sports betting, the track must continue to seek other revenue sources. He mentioned lobbying for purse supplements, and in the future for forms of casino-style gambling.

(Monmouth Park photo by Tom LaMarra)