Bill Would Dedicate Funding for Capital Improvements, Operation
TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senators Jim Whelan and Jeff Van Drew which would expand State support for the Atlantic City Racetrack was approved by the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee today by a vote of 7-5.
“While New Jersey has taken steps to improve the sustainability of casino gaming in Atlantic City, efforts to bolster the horse racing industry have been exclusive to Central and North Jersey,” said Senator Whelan, D-Atlantic, and chair of the Senate State Government, Wagering, Tourism and Historic Preservation Committee. “It seems that the Atlantic City Racetrack is always an afterthought, but with a minimal investment, the racetrack can be a vital component in the gaming economic of Atlantic City. This bill ensures that, as we line up private investors to bring Monmouth Park and the Meadowlands racetracks back from the brink, that we support horse racing in South Jersey as well.”
“When you look at it, the Atlantic City Racetrack suffers as much, if not more, from the draw of racinos in Delaware as any of the other racetracks do from competing facilities outside New Jersey,” said Senator Van Drew, D-Cape May, Cumberland and Atlantic. “However, while we’ve taken steps to help the horse racing industry achieve self-sustainability, we have yet to come up with a viable plan to support the Atlantic City Racetrack. By allowing the racetrack to collect a lion’s share of the funds coming in from out-of-State simulcasting, we can put them on a level playing field as the other facilities in the State and help them to build and maintain a world-class racing facility in the southern part of the State.”
The bill, S-1996, would make changes to the Casino Simulcasting Special Fund to provide additional financial support to the Atlantic City Racetrack. Under the bill, 90 percent of the remaining dollars in the Casino Simulcasting Special Fund – made up from money generated by wagers on horse races from out-of-state tracks transmitted to casino simulcast facilities in New Jersey – would be dedicated to support the Atlantic City Racetrack. The funds would be used to make capital improvements or cover additional live racing day expenses at the track, with 75 percent of the funds received dedicated to capital improvements within the first two years of the bill being in effect. The remaining 10 percent in the Special Fund not dedicated to the Atlantic City Racetrack would be used to support Monmouth Park Racetrack and Freehold Raceway.
“If we’re serious about weaning the horse racing industry off casino subsidies – which I believe we should be serious about – we have to have a plan to support all horse racing facilities Statewide, not just those in Central and North Jersey,” said Senator Van Drew. “Without a plan to make horse racing at the Atlantic City Racetrack sustainable, the track will be forever dependent on casino subsidies to continue operations, while being an economic drag on the recovering casino industry. It’s long past time that we get serious about supporting horse racing in Atlantic City, in order to transition the industry into a sustainable component of our State’s wagering and tourism economy.”
“By allowing the Atlantic City Racetrack to collect more funding from out-of-state simulcasting, we can diversify the gaming product in Atlantic City and draw a larger tourist base to the resort,” said Senator Whelan. “There’s a proud tradition of horse racing at the Atlantic City Racetrack, and that should be preserved into the 21st Century, not allowed to die on the vine. With a new revenue source, we can make the Atlantic City racetrack an elite facility which horse racing enthusiasts in Atlantic City and South Jersey can be proud of.”
The bill was approved last May by the Senate State Government Committee by a vote of 4-1, and now heads to the full Senate for consideration.