Casinos try to help Jersey's race tracks

March 3, 2008 6:40:02 PM PST
Atlantic City casinos have agreed to boost financial help for New Jersey's struggling horse racing tracks, but video lottery terminals would still be banned in the state under a deal announced Monday by Gov. Jon S. Corzine. The deal is meant to boost horse racing tracks while protecting casinos from new in-state gambling competition.

Under the agreement, casinos would provide $90 million over three years to the horse racing industry, largely to supplement racing purses but also to support equine breeding.

The casinos provided $86 million to the horse racing industry over the last four years.

In return, video lottery terminals would be banned in New Jersey for at least three more years. Video lottery terminals are electronic gambling games that can simulate casino games such as poker and slot machines.

Horse racing tracks have lobbied for years for approval to put the lottery terminals at tracks so they could compete against race tracks in nearby states that now offer them or slot machines, but the casinos have opposed that move.

"Both the equine industry and the casino industry play important roles in New Jersey, from preserving open space to attracting visitors, and it was essential to strike a balance that will allow both industries to thrive," Corzine said.

He said the agreement involves no taxpayer dollars and will not cut casino tax revenues for the state.

New Jersey's horse racing industry has sought increased state assistance as wagering decreased in recent years.

Wagering on New Jersey horse races declined 25 percent to $924 million in 2006 from 1999, according to a state-paid study released last year.

That study estimated New Jersey would earn as much as $433.5 million annually by putting video lottery terminals at horse racing tracks, but that the new gambling would hurt Atlantic City casinos struggling with increased competition from other states.

North Jersey legislators have long advocated putting video lottery terminals at the Meadowlands, but South Jersey legislators have fought them, worried the terminals could lure customers away from Atlantic City.