Says Measure Needed to Protect Casino, Horse-Racing Industries
TRENTON – Calling the demise of Perretti Farms, New Jersey’s largest standardbred horse farm, the beginning of the end of the 13,000 jobs, $1 billion horseracing industry in New Jersey, Senator Raymond Lesniak announced he would re-introduce his online betting legislation, which Governor Christie vetoed earlier this year, to pump over $200 million of profits into the casino industry, add tens of millions of dollars to the state treasury and provide a bridge to self sufficiency for three years through purse enhancements to keep the horse racing industry alive.
“We cannot turn our backs on the horse tracks and casinos which employ thousands of New Jerseyans and generate billions of dollars in economic activity each year,” said Senator Lesniak, D-Union. “We have to give this industry the tools and support to be relevant in the 21st century, and by authorizing intrastate online betting, we can provide access to a gaming product which other states have yet to capitalize on. We need to act now, before more of our state’s horse farms or casinos close their doors forever.”
Lesniak said he would tinker with his legislation to address Governor Christie’s veto concern that online gaming not spread beyond Atlantic City. He said he would also direct that temporary purse enhancements for the racing industry come from the additional casino profits rather than from state revenues produced from online gaming, as had been the case in his original legislation.
“Online gaming will be a huge boost for the casino industry,” said Senator Lesniak. “It can also be a temporary savior for our horse racing industry until we get sports betting at our casinos and racetracks.”
He added that according to a 2007 study from the Rutgers Equine Science Center, horseracing in New Jersey has a total economic impact of $1.1 billion, and is responsible for nearly 13,000 jobs, $160 million in federal, State and local taxes, and 176,000 acres in preserved farmland. He said that failure to support the horseracing industry – either through new gaming product a la sports betting, or temporary purse subsidies through the revamped online gaming legislation – would result in loss of revenue and jobs, and development pressure on existing farmland.
Lesniak said capturing the billions of dollars of gambling dollars currently going to organized crime bookmakers , off shore online gaming operations, Las Vegas casinos and Nevada’s Treasury should be a priority of the legislature and the governor. He said that according to an Econsult analysis conducted last year, online gaming could produce between $210 – $250 million in gross profit for casinos each year, resulting in $47 to $55 million in NJ tax revenue, and creating between 1,500 to 1,900 new jobs.
“We have to start fighting for jobs and revenues here in New Jersey, and tell out-of-state gaming interests to pound salt,” said Senator Lesniak. “We cannot kowtow to out of state special interests at every turn when New Jersey’s own economic well-being is at stake. Governor Christie raised some concern with the original online gaming legislation, and I’m willing to work through those concerns, but it’s time to quit giving out-of-state gaming conglomerates with a vested interest in the status quo the ability to dictate policy in the Garden State.”
Lesniak also called on every local official in Monmouth, Ocean and Burlington County to make their voices heard by the Governor and Legislature so this vital part of New Jersey’s economy and the jobs it provides are not lost forever and so New Jersey casinos can get an infusion of new revenues.
The new legislation will be introduced next Thursday.