New Jersey Horsemen Say No Northern Casinos, No Racing

Posted on: October 20, 2016, 04:00h. 

Last updated on: October 20, 2016, 12:22h.

New Jersey horsemen casino referendum Jeff Gural
Meadowlands racetrack operator Jeff Gural is warning residents that if they vote against casino expansion, 13,000 New Jersey horsemen could be out of work. (Image: Carmine Galasso/

New Jersey horsemen have suggested in recent weeks that the casino referendum facing voters next month is crucial to their survival, but now one leader is saying residents should prepare for horse racing’s curtain call.

Meadowlands racetrack operator Jeff Gural believes New Jersey residents will vote against Public Question 1, which asks if the state constitution should be amended to allow two casinos to be built in northern counties at least 72 miles outside of Atlantic City.

Gural says a heavily funded opposition campaign has persuaded voters to its side by using fear tactics and falsified claims of the consequences of placing casinos upstate.

“The way I see it we’re going to lose. We should have never lost. We had a lousy campaign,” Gural said at a Bayonne Chamber of Commerce meeting to discuss casino and gaming expansion. NJTV News first reported Gural’s comments.

“Horse racing won’t survive if these Atlantic City guys want to keep plugging away and keep telling people that there shouldn’t be casinos in the north,” Gural explained. “This legislation was designed to save Atlantic City . . . These people listen to these stupid politicians that they have down there who say, ‘Oh! It’s going to destroy Atlantic City!’ It’s going to save Atlantic City!”

Too Many Promises, Too Little Details

Opponents to allowing two $1 billion casino resorts to be built say there are many vague areas in Public Question 1. Gural and others in favor of bringing casino-style gaming north believe gaming companies in Pennsylvania and New York are funding the anti-expansion attack ads.

More than $20 million has now been spent on the casino expansion ballot question, a record for any state constitutional amendment in New Jersey history.

Should voters approve the expansion, some of the tax revenue generated from the new casinos would be directed towards revitalizing Atlantic City. A lesser portion of the generated money would go towards aiding the thoroughbred and standardbred horsemen in New Jersey.

Groups like Trenton’s Bad Bet and Atlantic City’s No North Jersey Casinos say the amendment doesn’t specify a gross gaming tax rate on the casinos, nor where they will be placed.

Trenton’s Bad Bet was also at the Bayonne Chamber meeting this week. The group says billionaires like Paul Fireman and Gural are looking to get even richer at the expense of New Jerseyans.

“We will continue to ensure the voice of the majority of New Jersey voters who oppose gaming expansion is heard,” Trenton’s Bad Bet Executive Director Bill Cortese said. “Polling data has been very clear that likely voters across the state know this expansion is a bad deal.”

Sports Betting Appeal

Unless the polls get it wrong, the most recent Rutgers survey showing just 35 percent of Jersey residents approve casino expansion, the horsemen will be down to perhaps their last lifeline.

The final saving grace might be sports betting.

It was announced this week that New Jersey is appealing to the US Supreme Court to hear its wishes to legalize sports betting. District courts have ruled against New Jersey’s attempts to end sports gambling prohibition on grounds of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA).

Should the Supreme Court take the case and rule in the Garden State’s favor, horse racetracks would likely be allowed to offer lines on games.