Without N.J. backing, racetracks’ future is anyone’s bet

    Now that there are agreements to privatize New Jersey’s horse racing tracks, the challenge will be how to make the tracks financially viable.

    Even with state subsides, the Meadowlands harness track and the Monmouth Park thoroughbred track have each been losing millions of dollars a year.

    Steve Crist, the editor and publisher emeritus of the Daily Racing Form, said he expects New Jersey’s tracks will survive. He also said he expects the quality of racing won’t be the same without the state funds.

    Tom Luchento, the president of the Standardbred Breeders and Owners Association of New Jersey, also believes harness racing at the Meadowlands can survive without state subsidies.

    “We have new innovative ideas. We’re building a brand-new grandstand. We’re building an OTW in Bayonne. We have revenue sources coming in from different forms of gambling,” said Luchenko. “Exchange wagering is passed. We’re hoping that sports betting in the future will come forward.”

    Crist said horse racing in about a dozen other states would not continue without being subsidized by casino gambling at those tracks.

    “You just look to Pennsylvania next door and they’re putting on cards of racing that offer $300,000 a day in purses and people are barely betting $300,000 on those races,” he said. “They’re being entirely propped up by casino revenues.”

    Gov. Chris Christie opposes installing slot machines at the tracks. Instead, he’s focused on revitalizing Atlantic City where casino revenue has been falling for more than four years.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.