Meadowlands Racetrack Owner Still Hoping For Casino To Save The Day

[toc]Jeff Gural is still holding out hope that his Meadowlands Racetrack in northeast New Jersey will be rescued by casino gaming.

Casino gambling in North Jersey, still?

It’s a fascinating position, considering almost 80 percent of New Jersey voters last November shot down the state’s proposal to expand casino gaming beyond Atlantic City in a referendum.

“I’m not a dummy,” Gural told the Press of Atlantic City earlier this month. “I recognize that harness racing is a dying business. I would have no problem being profitable if I could attract the horses. The only thing that will save me at the Meadowlands is a casino.”

For Gural, a self-proclaimed “horse guy,” casino revenues would help him post bigger race purses and in turn attract more racers, he said. Those improved purses give competitors like the Yonkers Raceway in New York and Harrah’s Philadelphia Racetrack in Chester an edge, according to Gural. Yonkers alone receives $50 million in purse subsidies from its Empire City Casino, Gural said.

‘Sit and wait’ for casinos outside of AC

After the sounding defeat in November, Gural has little option other than wait and hope for the best. He’s hoping that once New York releases three casino licenses for the southern part of the state, New Jersey will respond accordingly.

“Once that happens, voters of New Jersey would be idiots for not approving (expanded casino gaming beyond Atlantic City),” Gural told the Press of Atlantic City. “Common sense is common sense. So right now I plan to sit tight and wait.”

New commercial casinos are now coming online in New York, providing more competition for New Jersey’s gambling dollars.

Another ballot measure in 2018?

The earliest Gural could attempt to put another referendum on the ballot is 2018. Gural gave up early on the referendum in 2016, citing the opposition’s strategy of tying the casino proposal to the dsitrust many felt toward lawmakers.

Sites were proposed, but there were no specifics in the referendum about where exactly the casinos would be built or how much in taxes they would pay.

“It was a throw-the-bums-out attitude,” Gural told the Newark Star-Ledger in September. “You’re seeing that all over. That’s Trump’s message. That was Bernie Sanders’ message. The mood of the country is this anti-government message. It was something we weren’t expecting.”

“I thought if I built a beautiful facility and offered to give the taxpayers $500 million a year, people would get on the bandwagon. Not this year,” Gural added back in September. “Eventually, there will be a casino at the Meadowlands. There has to be.”

There is a bill that would allow for “online” slot machines at the state’s racetracks. The future of that legislation is murky at best.

About the Author

Beau Eastes

Beau Eastes has spent more than a decade as a journalist, covering everything from from the Utah Shakespeare Festival to the National Finals Rodeo. His work on alleged corruption within the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs in Oregon received a 2016 Society of Professional Journalist Northwest Excellence in Journalism award.