Legislation authored by Senator Vin Gopal and Senator Paul Sarlo that would provide critically-needed support for racetracks and the horse breeding industry in New Jersey was approved by the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee.
The bill, S-2992, would provide an annual appropriation of $20 million for five years to the New Jersey Racing Commission to be used for horse racing purse subsidies and track operations, allocating the amounts equally between the thoroughbred and the standardbred industries. In addition, the revenue from sports betting at the tracks will be shared with the breeders and owners.
“This will be a huge help for the horse racing industry that is an important part of New Jersey’s heritage and culture and a key source of jobs and economic activity,” said Senator Gopal (D-Monmouth). “There are tens of thousands of jobs impacted directly or indirectly by the racing industry, including the long-term survival of Monmouth Racetrack.”
The industry supports 13,000 jobs directly and preserves 176,000 acres of open land in the state.
New Jersey’s horse racing industry has experienced a variety of struggles since the decline of the Atlantic City casinos, including the loss of a $17 million annual subsidy paid by casino gaming supplements. Other states have been able to maintain their supplements and enhanced purses, putting New Jersey’s racing industry at a disadvantage.
“Sports betting offers the opportunity to reinvigorate casino gaming and the state’s racetracks,” said Senator Sarlo (D-Bergen). “This bill would have sports betting tax revenue generated at racetracks help support purse subsidies, which are vital for the success of the individual tracks, the horseracing sector and the horse breeding industry in New Jersey.”
Legalized sports betting is only a few months old in New Jersey, but it is off to a strong start. Gamblers in New Jersey bet close to $100 million on sporting events in August and the betting volume is expected to increase with the lengthy collegiate and professional football seasons.
The purse subsidy would also enable the tracks to hold more races.
In October, both tracks had to submit their 2019 racing schedule to the state Racing Commission. The Meadowlands had intended to drop from 90 dates to just 68, but scheduled 76 as 75 is the minimum for the standardbred-focused track. If the bill passes, more will be added, according to the operator.
Of the funds allocated to the thoroughbred industry by the bill, 100 percent would go to Monmouth Park overnight purses. Of the funds for the standardbred industry, 60 percent would go to Meadowlands overnight purses, 16 percent to Freehold overnight purses, 12 percent to the New Jersey Sire Stakes purses, six percent to purse bonuses for New Jersey-sired horses and six percent for breeders awards purses.
The bill would require that the recipients of the funds file an annual report with the New Jersey Racing Commission that documents the purposes for which those funds were used.