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Gural, Atlantic City Operators Talking

Published: March 21, 2016 9:56 am ET

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In an interview conducted Saturday, Meadowlands Racetrack chairman Jeff Gural confirmed that he has had discussions with two of the major casino operators in Atlantic City that could possibly bid on a casino licence should New Jersey's citizens vote in favour of gaming expansion to the northern part of the state.

Gural sat down with Sam McKee during Saturday night's edition of In The Sulky to discuss last week's news that the New Jersey Senate and Assembly both voted to include the question of allowing two casinos in North Jersey on the state-wide referendum in November.

"I think that this is the first step, but this is a step that is necessary because the law in New Jersey is clear, casinos are only allowed in Atlantic City," said Gural of the potential for expanded gaming at The Meadowlands. "So the first thing that has to happen is we have to change the constitution."

The new law, if passed, would allow two casinos in different counties, a minimum of 72-miles away from Atlantic City. Getting the question on the ballot is positive news, but just the first step for a potential casino at The Meadowlands as Gural emphasized polling numbers indicate that educating the public about the issue could require a multi-million advertising campaign.

"We did our own polling and basically if you just ask the question 'are you in favour of adding casinos in the north?' the answer would be no. But it you ask the question 'are you in favour of adding casinos and The Meadowlands would pay $400-500 million in tax revenue and a significant portion would go to rebuild Atlantic City and it would help the horse industry' when we get to that point it would pass narrowly, like 53-47, so the trick is we've got to be able to get that message out."

If the law was passed to allow a casino outside of Atlantic City, Gural noted that a further complication for The Meadowlands is that the current six casino license holders active in Atlantic City have first dibs on a new casino.

"I think that anyone would recognize that we have the best location. Not only the best location physically, but from a standpoint of approvals, you don't have to deal with the local community, people don't live here, I don't think traffic is an issue...I think clearly we have the ideal location," said Gural, noting that he has met with Caesars and MGM.

In terms of the benefits a Meadowlands casino would offer horse racing, Gural explained that a minimum of two percent of revenue would be guaranteed to purses, divided between standardbreds and thoroughbreds.

"That's guaranteed and then I guess it would be up to the horse industry to lobby the legislature to convince them that when they finally put this law in place that there's more than two percent. Obviously, we know that in New York it's 10 and in Pennsylvania it's 11, Ohio I think it's 10. So two is not much, but that's what we're dealing with."

Gural said horse racing participants and fans can reach out to local elected officials and express that they support the referendum and would like to see more than two percent go to horse racing. Gural also emphasized the importance of ensuring employees, friends and family are registered to vote for the November referendum.


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