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WHITEPAPER: MANY STAND TO LOSE IF HORSE RACING FAILS IN NJ

Link to nj.com

By Jane Meggitt | For NJ Advance Media
on November 01, 2015 at 2:15 PM, updated November 02, 2015 at 9:33 PM

New Jersey's casino and racetrack industries, fighting each other for the gambling dollar, stand to benefit or lose together due to the state's overall competition for gambling dollars with neighboring states.

That's the conclusion of a recently released white paper examining these industries from 2009 through 2014. The report recommends a "partnership between the casino and horse racing industries to enable both to remain sustainable, as competition for gambling dollars continues to escalate."

The "2014 State of the New Jersey Horse Racing Industry: Post Report of the Governor's Advisory Commission on New Jersey Gaming, Sports and Entertainment," written by Dr. Karyn Malinowski, director of the Rutgers Equine Science Center and Dr. Paul Gottlieb, chair of Rutger's Department of Agricultural, Food and Resource Economics, paints a dire picture of the state's racing and breeding industry, but notes that Atlantic City's casinos are also suffering.

The report points out that Gov. Christie's five-year plan to revitalize Atlantic City has not been successful, with 2014 the worst year for the casino industry in terms of revenue, closing and job losses since casino gambling was legalized in 1976.

New Jersey offered an average of 78 thoroughbred racing dates annually between 2010 and 2013. Neighboring New York and Pennsylvania — which have "racinos," or racing and slot machines at many tracks — averaged 403 and 498, respectively, during the same period. The average daily purse money for thoroughbred racing in New Jersey in 2010 was $624,966. By 2013, it had dropped to $299,027, a 52 percent decrease. In New York, almost the opposite occurred. Daily purse averages in 2010 were $285,827, rising 53 percent to $436,996 by 2013. In Pennsylvania, the daily purse structure for thoroughbred racing remained fairly steady over the same time frame, at $224,890 in 2010 and $217,464 in 2013.

Harness racing dates in New Jersey declined 36.5 percent, from 298 days in 2010 to 189 days in 2013. New York offered an average of 929 harness racing days per year during this period, while Pennsylvania averaged 496 days. The average daily purse money for New Jersey during this period was $95,920, while New York's was $129,163 and Pennsylvania's was $216,267.

In 2010, 231 thoroughbred foals were registered in New Jersey, a number that dropped to 130 by 2013. The number of foals registered in Pennsylvania also dropped significantly, from 1,523 in 2010 to 623 in 2013, while the number of foals registered in New York grew from 1,378 to 1,534 in the same time period.

The standardbred picture is similar, with 514 yearlings nominated to the Sire Stakes program in 2010, and just 236 in 2013. In New York and Pennsylvania, the number of yearlings nominated in that time period did decline, but not drastically. New Jersey was one home to some of the sport's top stallions, but most of those horses are now standing in New York and Pennsylvania.
Mark Mullen manages his family's standardbred breeding operation, Fair Winds Farm, in Upper Freehold.

"We've seen the closing of Perretti Farm and now Showplace." This major training center, located in Millstone Township, shut its doors on Oct. 1. "There are fewer days of racing, fewer stallions and mares bred in New Jersey as a result. All of this represents a negative equine economic drag," said Mullen.

On the positive side, Mullen notes that 2014 Hambletonian winner Trixton came to stud at Deo Volente Farms, in Flemington last season and there may be a new pacing stud moving from New York to New Jersey in the coming season. "We continue to make adjustments in order to enhance the racing program, overall and for New Jersey-bred stallions and mares. For the real racing fan, the Meadowlands program is still one of the most sought after in the business," he said.

However, Mullen points out that the racinos of New York, Pennsylvania and other jurisdictions across the country are pulling the horse population and with it the jobs and tax revenue right out of New Jersey. "The revenue generated by the racinos and lower out- of-state costs are too significant an advantage for most working horsemen and horse buyers to ignore. Without approval of expanded gaming or racinos in New Jersey, I expect we will continue to see further contraction in New Jersey," he said.

Standardbred Breeders and Owners Association of New Jersey's executive administrator, Leo McNamara, said he assumes the decline year over year continues in 2015. "As you know our horsemen can race in Pennsylvania and New York where purses are supplemented by gaming," he said.

McNamara adds that the failure of the State of New Jersey to expand gaming outside of Atlantic City has hurt the entire state, and has lots of New Jersey residents playing poker, slots and blackjack in our surrounding states. "The state's share of that revenue could go a long way closing up the shortfalls in New Jersey's budget," said McNamara. "We continue to struggle and with the closure of Showplace Farms, another horse-related business closes." McNamara put it bluntly, "No one in their right mind would open a business or expand an existing one in the horse industry climate we have in New Jersey."

"The New Jersey thoroughbred breeding industry is in dire straits," said Michael Campbell, the executive director of the Thoroughbred Breeders' Association of New Jersey. "We are surrounded by states that have year-round racing at different racetracks and incentive award programs enhanced by alternate sources of gaming."

Campbell noted that the New York-bred program received approximately $12 million dollars from their share of revenue from video lottery terminals at the Aqueduct casino in 2014, while the New Jersey-bred program received $2 million for its incentive program last year. "Unless the gaming laws are changed, the thoroughbred breeding industry will continue to decline to a point where there will be no more breeding farms or New Jersey-bred foals. If the gaming laws are changed the Thoroughbred Breeders' Association must receive a statutory percentage of the new revenue in order to stabilize the program," he said.

Horse owners not involved in racing shouldn't assume the industry's woes won't affect them. Malinowski warns that sport competition and recreational horse users stand to suffer, as will traditional agricultural interests such as grain, hay, and straw farmers who continue to survive and maintain open space due to the fact that their major customers are horse owners.

She notes that the New Jersey Equine Advisory Board's (part of the New Jersey Department of Agriculture) annual budget to support the Horse Park of New Jersey and the sport and recreation segments of the horse industry, including 4-H Youth development programs, is correlated to a percentage of the pari-mutuel handle from racing. The EAB budget would disappear if racing ceased to exist in New Jersey.

The 'top shelf' level of services New Jersey horse enthusiasts have come to expect, such as equine veterinary clinics and feed and supply stores, are at risk. That is because, while they are frequented and supported by sport horse competition and recreational users, a predominant economic flow to these entities is from the racing industry, according to Malinowski.
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