With the 2011 racing season scheduled to start next month, the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority said this week it has entered into negotiations with a potential lessee for Monmouth Park, in Oceanport.
The NJSEA has begun negotiations with real estate developer and Resorts Casino co-owner Morris Bailey to lease the track. Bailey, also a licensed horse owner and breeder, was selected after three proposals were submitted to run the track.
Agency Chairman Mike Ferguson said in a press release he’s confident a deal will be in place by June 1. The lease would include more than just the racetrack — in its request for proposals, the NJSEA said the lease would include the track, the assignment of five off-track wagering licenses and the assignment of a 50 percent share of the authority’s interest in account wagering. State Sen. Jennifer Beck (R-Red Bank) said while she doesn’t know Bailey, he has a reputation as a strong business leader with the ability to think creatively. She said she is pleased to see someone “with a passion for throroughbred horse racing” in line to take over the track.
“In that sense, our concern about having someone take over Monmouth Park that didn’t have the best interest of throroughbred racing at heart is allayed,” she said.
News of the Monmouth negotiations come as the clock ticks on negotiations to operate another of the state’s tracks, the Meadowlands Racetrack.
Developer Jeff Gural has been in talks to lease the Meadowlands track, but at a gaming forum late last month, Gural said he was still trying to win necessary concessions from the track’s unions.
“Within the next two weeks, we’ll either have a deal or call it a day,” Gural said at the forum.
Regarding the Meadowlands negotiations, and the upcoming Monmouth Park negotiations, Beck urged all sides to realize that the survival of both tracks hangs in the balance.
“I would hope that everybody keeps in mind that this isn’t the normal negotiations you would have,” she said. “You’re talking about the survival of the industry here. Any unwillingness to bend may simply lead to closing the doors.”
The original deadline for a deal was March 31, but Gov. Chris Christie has given Gural a two-week extension to reach an accord.
Both sets of negotiations are part of Christie’s efforts to make the racing industry self-sustaining.
On Monday, the governor signed a bill that will allow the racing seasons at the Meadowlands track and the Freehold Raceway to be trimmed to 75 days.
Monmouth Park operated with a consolidated schedule last year, and saw increases in total handle and attendance for its two racing meets.
E-mail Jared Kaltwasser at email@example.com