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N.J. will spend up to $100 million to keep state’s horse racing industry on track

In this Sunday, Aug. 2, 2015 file photograph, jockey Victor Espinoza, (right), on Triple Crown winner American Pharoah(4), looks back at jockey Kent Desormeaux on Keen Ice (6) after American Pharoah won the Haskell Invitational horse race at Monmouth Park in Oceanport, N.J. (Mel Evans/AP Photo, File)

In this Sunday, Aug. 2, 2015 file photograph, jockey Victor Espinoza, (right), on Triple Crown winner American Pharoah(4), looks back at jockey Kent Desormeaux on Keen Ice (6) after American Pharoah won the Haskell Invitational horse race at Monmouth Park in Oceanport, N.J. (Mel Evans/AP Photo, File)

New Jersey will bet up to $100 million on the state’s horse racing industry over the next five years, thanks to a law signed by Gov. Phil Murphy on Friday.

“New Jersey’s horse racing industry is a key economic engine, supporting thousands of jobs and attracting tourists and fans from around the world,” Murphy said in a statement.

“With this funding, New Jersey can continue to offer one of the most exciting horse racing experiences in the nation, while also providing a boost to an industry that is integral to our economy,” he added.

The state will dole out $20 million to race tracks this year. In each of the next four years, state officials will be able to award as much as $20 million to race track operators — but they could give less.

The money will go toward prizes for the winners.

State Sen. Steve Oroho, R-Sussex, said the bet will pay off “not only in economic activity, but also in keeping the Garden State the Garden State and the horse our state animal.”

Oroho suggested it was worthwhile for the state to support an industry that creates thousands of jobs, brings in tourism revenue, and boosts the state’s profile.

“The equine industry isn’t necessarily the first thing people think about in New Jersey, but it’s one of the assets I think helps New Jersey be the unique place that it is,” he said.

Although some New Jersey race tracks began offering sports betting after it was legalized this year, operators said they still need the state’s help to stay afloat.

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