Sports Outside the Beltway

New Jersey committee report on horse racing states ‘the status quo is not sustainable’

It is not often that some aspect of Harness racing gets written up in the New York Times.

Meadowlands Racetrack has had some of the highest-quality harness racing in the country and dozens of the sport’s most important races. But in recent years, the track has become a money-losing drain on the state of New Jersey, which now threatens its survival.Meadowlands

A report issued this month by a committee put together by Gov. Christopher J. Christie before his inauguration to come up with solutions to the financial problems of the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority made several suggestions that, if put in place, could all but gut the state’s racing industry. The suggestions included possibly closing Meadowlands Racetrack and drastically reducing the number of racing days at Monmouth Park.

The Sports and Exposition Authority is a state-run agency that owns the Meadowlands, Monmouth Park and portions of the state’s off-track betting system. The committee projected that the Meadowlands and Monmouth would lose a combined $22 million in 2010, a loss some lawmakers find difficult to justify given the state’s fiscal crisis.

In the report, the committee insisted that “the status quo is not sustainable” when it came to New Jersey racing.

“We know that the frankness of that report will have raised fears with certain interested groups and constituencies,” said Michael Drewniak, a spokesman for Christie. “In a sense, we’re glad that happened because if it wasn’t clear to everyone that these are the realities, it should be clear.”

I’m well aware of the financial realities the horse racing industry is facing at present. In spite of infusions of public money, or more often than that the addition of some form of casino gambling to race tracks, the sport continues to struggle. There just aren’t as many people interested in the ‘Sport of Kings’ as there were when my father took me and my other siblings to the races in Pennsylvania, Ohio, New Jersey, Deleware, and Illinois when we were growing up.

Here are just a few of the posts I’ve written on horse racing’s financial woes.

Kentucky horse racing ‘in serious jeopardy’
Florida horsemen say 2009 racing meet will end 3 months early
New York Racing Association files for bankruptcy
Owner of Pimlico racecourse defaults on loan*
Rosecroft Raceway ceases operations
Freehold Raceway cuts purses, Meadowlands could be next**

*- Like the Meadowlands which hosts ‘The Hambletonian, Pimlico hosts another one of the sports grandest events- ‘The Preakness. When tracks like these can’t make money, it should be a clear sign just how troubled the sport is.
**- This post which was about New Jersey horse racing difficulties, was posted on 1-22-08.

I’ve got many more posts like the six listed above. Since I began contributing at OTB Sports in May 2006, there have been 74 horse racing posts written. Over 30% of which we re on the sports’ dire financial condition.

Should the state of New Jersey bail out the industry? Absolutely not. I love horse racing but the industry if it can’t survive on its own should cease operations. The government shouldn’t be in the business of trying to prop up any business. Public resources should be used for something more fruitful, not be wasted on something that will fail eventually even with the assistance.

On a side note. Why did the NY Times use a thoroughbred racing photo to accompany an article that specifically states harness racing in the very first paragraph? Harness racing is to horse racing, what the LPGA is to professional golf, a Rodney Dangerfield. Harness racing, even when its greatest events are taking place, barely get noticed by the media. No one need look further than both sports 3-year-old Triple Crowns. Has The Messenger Stakes, always raced in the New York City area, ever been on network television. I know it hasn’t from 1970 on.

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