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Referendum Realities In New Jersey

Published: August 5, 2016 2:16 pm ET

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The horse racing industry in New Jersey is proactively creating awareness in advance of a state referendum this November on casino expansion.

A release from the Standardbred Breeders and Owners Association of New Jersey accompanies a 60-second commercial created by TrotPAC, New Jersey harness racing's political action committee, that will air on CBS. The release and commercial discuss what the principals consider the realities of the impending referendum.

New Jersey residents have an important decision to make on November 8, 2016. Earlier this year the State Legislature approved placing a constitutional amendment on November’s ballot that would expand gaming to northern New Jersey.

If New Jersey voters approve gaming expansion, billions of dollars can be recaptured, thousands of jobs can be created, and all the while reviving the equine industry as well as preserving the vital open space areas especially in hugely agricultural Monmouth County. According to Al Ochsner, Executive Administrator of the Standardbred Breeders and Owners Association of New Jersey located in Manalapan, Monmouth County, “76 percent of those polled admitted they knew little or nothing about the ramifications of the referendum issue and just how the expansion of Casino gaming from embattled Atlantic City would benefit the open space preservation program.”

Mark Ford, President of the New Jersey Standardbred Breeders and Owners Association explained that “The Meadowlands, once the world capital of harness racing is no longer able to compete on an equal basis with racetracks in neighbouring states in terms of purse offerings even though The Meadowlands totally outdistances those tracks in attendance and betting handle but in this the Racino Age, it’s still not enough.”

The once-thriving horse racing industry in New Jersey has fallen on hard times with neighbouring states like Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and New York all having acquired casino gaming at their racetracks. At one point, the Upper Freehold area of Monmouth County was a replica of the famed Bluegrass Region in Kentucky with horse farms that attracted international commerce and tourism to the area especially during the Haskell-Hambletonian festival week at Monmouth Racetrack and The Meadowlands.

It is difficult for New Jersey to compete with purse structures of those racetracks with casino gaming. In the past six years alone total racing purses for horse racing have dropped nearly 50 percent. Despite the declining trend New Jersey horse racing still supports over 14,000 jobs although a significant number of jobs have been lost due to New Jersey’s inability to compete on a level field with the neighbouring casino states. Gaming expansion will put New Jersey back in contention with neighbouring states.

Should the casino expansion referendum fail, more than just the equine industry as a whole will suffer further. According to Dr. Karen Malinowski, Director of the Rutgers Equine Science Center, “The high level of veterinary, farrier and feed and supply stores that New Jersey horse owners have available will dwindle, because the primary economic flow to these businesses is the racing industry. A percentage of the pari-mutuel handle from racing is allocated but not limited to the following entities: Horse Park of New Jersey, the New Jersey Equine Advisory Board and 4-H Youth Development programs. Thus there will be no allocated money for these programs and there will be little incentive for young people to enter what was a thriving field of endeavor.”

Anthony Perretti, Chairman of TrotPac, New Jersey’s Political Action Committee illustrated how “the Rutgers Equine Science Center report valued the annual economic impact of the equine industry to the State Of New Jersey at $1.1 billion - much of which would be lost if the November referendum fails to pass.”

New Jersey’s open space and additional agricultural industries receive major contributions from the equine industry. If the referendum fails, the equine industry will fail resulting in a major rise of development and congestion and further decline to our precious in open space areas. It is imperative for the sake of our Garden State that New Jersey residents vote “YES” to the casino expansion referendum this November. For more information visit

(with files from SBOANJ)

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