Purse supplement bill passes New Jersey Assembly, awaits signature

Update posted: Jan. 31, 2019

The New Jersey Assembly Jan. 31 passed legislation that will provide $20 million a year—$10 million of it to Monmouth Park—for overnight purse supplements. The bill passed by a vote of 68-6, with one abstention.

The Assembly approved a Senate substitute, which was updated with amendments approved by the Assembly (see original story below). The measure now goes to Gov. Phil Murphy for his signature.

Posted: Jan. 28, 2019

The New Jersey Assembly Appropriations Committee Jan. 28 approved a bill that would provide $20 million a year over five years to the horse racing and breeding industry for purse and breed development supplements provided the industry can document the money is having the desired impact.

The bill was released on a 11-0 vote and now goes to the Assembly floor for consideration. It also mandates a written agreement between each racetrack and its representative horsemen’s group on the sharing of revenue from sports betting, which began in June 2018 in New Jersey.

“I’m pleased to be the primary sponsor of the bill,” said Democratic Assemblyman John Burzichelli, who chairs the Appropriations Committee. “This industry and its ripple effects had been stymied for the previous eight years prior to the new administration, and we’ve been playing catch-up ever since. The success of the horseracing industry automatically means farmland preservation.”

Burzichelli noted Democratic Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin wanted the bill to include metrics on the progress of state government’s investment in the industry. He also noted the supplements will be reviewed each year before they are awarded as part of the budgetary process.

Recipients of any funds would have to file an annual report with the New Jersey Racing Commission that documents how funds were spent and the amounts allocated for those purposes. Each annual report must include the impact on pari-mutuel handle; total number of horses that raced; number of New Jersey-bred horses in the races and the number that won races; number of broodmares in the state; number of foals born each year; and any impact on the New Jersey Sire Stakes program on the Standardbred side.

Republican Assemblyman Kevin Rooney pointed out that the horse is New Jersey’s state animal and told fellow committee member “we need to do everything in our power” to support not only horse racing and breeding but the horse industry in general.

Democratic Assemblyman Gary Schaer, whose district includes Meadowlands in northern New Jersey, voted to release the bill but indicated he wouldn’t vote for it on the Assembly floor.

“The Meadowlands is in my district, but I’ve got to say we don’t have the money to do all the things we want to do,” Schaer said. “This is not something I can support on the floor.”

The legislation passed the Senate by a vote of 40-0 on Dec. 17, 2018. The next scheduled meeting of the full Assembly is Jan. 31.

The measure calls for a total of $100 million to be paid over five years from the state general fund. Of the $20 million a year, the Thoroughbred industry would get $10 million and the Standardbred industry $10 million.

Monmouth Park would get 100% ($10 million) of the Thoroughbred share for overnight purses. On the harness side, Meadowlands would get 60% ($6 million) for overnight purses, Freehold Raceway would get 16% ($1.6 million) for overnight purses, the New Jersey Sire Stakes program would receive 12% ($1.2 million), New Jersey-sired purses bonuses would get 6% ($600,000) and 6% ($600,000) would be set aside for breeders’ awards.