Meadowlands Racetrack Owner Jeff Gural Patient Over North Jersey Casinos

Posted on: May 26, 2017, 01:00h. 

Last updated on: May 26, 2017, 12:35h.

The Meadowlands Racetrack owner who campaigned to end Atlantic City’s monopoly on casinos in New Jersey last year says he’s now willing to take a wait and see approach before resuming his efforts.

Meadowlands Racetrack Jeff Gural casino
Jeff Gural says allowing a casino to complement his Meadowlands Racetrack is crucial to safeguarding the horse venue’s future. (Image: Reena Rose Sibayan/The Jersey Journal)

Talking at the East Coast Gaming Congress in Atlantic City this week, real estate developer Jeff Gural explained his belief that Garden State voters will likely be more open to bringing casinos north should gambling come to the New York City metro in the coming years.

During last November’s election, a ballot referendum to expand gaming and allow two multibillion-dollar integrated resorts at least 72 miles outside Atlantic City was easily rejected.

“I don’t want to see this come on the ballot and lose again,” Gural stated, as reported by the Associated Press. “I’d rather wait six years and wait until New York is either open or getting ready to open, at which point I think voters will say, ‘Wait a second, what are these Atlantic City people arguing?'”

Opposition to allowing casinos to flow north in New Jersey said such expansion would deliver a devastating economic blow to Atlantic City. A well-financed campaign inundated televisions and radio with spots highlighting the alleged impact gambling in northern counties would have on the already fiscally challenged oceanfront town.

New York currently has a ban on allowing a casino to be placed in Manhattan, but that ordinance is set to expire in 2020.

Meadowland of Opportunity

Gural’s racetrack, like so many others across the nation, is hurting. Attendance is down at live horseracing events, and parimutuel wagering continues to decline, aside from the sport’s Triple Crown races.

The real estate tycoon had proposed the construction of a casino resort at the Meadowlands that would cost as much as $4 billion. Fellow New York businessman Paul Fireman, the former head honcho of Reebok, suggested a similar project near his Liberty National Golf Club.

Gural’s motives were clear: he needs more people at his Meadowlands venue to support the overhead of continuing to host horse races. And there’s plenty of proof that adding a casino helps resurrect thoroughbred and harness racing.

In Massachusetts, the Plainridge Park Casino, a slots-only venue that opened in June of 2015, has helped revitalize the once struggling track. Parimutuel bets have doubled in the two years since the casino floor opened.

Six-Year Itch

Failed ballot referendums do come with consequences, as similar questions cannot be posed to voters for at least two years following rejection.

Gural believes allowing New York to tip its hand before pressing on improves his odds in gaining support from residents, and one day hosting a full-fledged commercial casino at the Meadowlands.

While he admits should New York City get a casino, Manhattanites would be less enticed to travel across the Hudson to New Jersey, he believes the millions of North Jersey residents, and tourists, would more than support such an investment. Adjacent to his racetrack is the Meadowlands Sports Complex, home to the NFL’s New York Giants and Jets.