Hanson Speaks In New Jersey

The long-awaited appearance of Jon Hanson, New Jersey’s gaming and racing advisor to Gov. Chris Christie, took place today (Wednesday) at the third and final gaming summit at Monmouth Park


It drew little from Hanson except reiteration of views already known, but some interesting observations and comments from him. He cited a 1976 opening night crowd of 42,000 at the Meadowlands and attendance of 3,000 to 5,000 a night currently, but never mentioned the introduction of simulcasting.

Asked by a legislator about specifics of his commission’s recommendation for creating “a city within a city” administrative plan for Atlantic City, he answered that “the devil is in the details,” and said he had no idea of what might be done, indicating nothing has been done or is about to be.

Asked if the public had been interviewed for his commission report, he said no, and when asked if racing interests had been represented, he said breeder and Christie backer Mike Gulotta had been talked to and was scheduled to be heard later today.

When pressed for specific numbers on those contacted or interviewed, he said he had none, but would ask his associate Bob Mulcahy to look into it and provide the legislator who asked the question with an answer.

He praised the Monmouth Park experiment on a shorter season with higher purses, but noted that even though the experiment was hailed as a success Monmouth had lost money this year.

He agreed that time was running out on solutions, but did not comment on a legislator’s statement that the answer lay in meeting competition from tracks in surrounding states with racinos by installing them at the Meadowlands with the Atlantic City casinos partnering in their operation and profits.

A far more balanced report by Richard Lee of the Hall Institute on Public Policy in New Jersey has surfaced. Its stated purpose “is to point out some obvious shortcomings in the Hanson Report and some of the arguments being made so that discussion and debate can continue and more robust solutions can be considered by the legislature and the governor.”

The well-written report is an important document, covering 11 pages, and will be posted in full on the HTA Web site. A Track Topics this week also will review highlights of the report.

Meanwhile, rumors of a proposed solution to the Meadowlands crisis are circulating, which would provide for continued racing with a shorter season and higher purses, following the Monmouth formula. The subject was discussed at a three-hour symposium at Perretti Farms in Cream Ridge two days ago, with a panel addressing “A blueprint to create a successful future for the New Jersey equine industry.

SBOANJ's Tom Luchento issued the following statement to those in attendance.

My name is Tom Luchento and I am president of the Standardbred Breeders & Owners Association of New Jersey.

I am honored to be once again invited to testify before this committee. I promise to be brief.

In my previous testimony before you, and with the video we shared with you at the Meadowlands, we have tried to make the case for the importance of horse racing in this state.

Today, I want to concentrate on the role of horse breeding. You will hear from the experts, including owners of our state’s top farms, individuals who have made substantial investments in the State of New Jersey, for whom packing up and going elsewhere is not so simple and involves tens of thousands of acres of farmland and millions of dollars in broodmares and stallions.

They are no different than other small businessmen in this state. They pay a lot of taxes, employ hardworking people and have carved out world-class farms in the middle of this most densely populated state.

Equine related farms represent 20 percent of the agricultural business in this state. There are 700 farms and 176,000 acres of land devoted to horses in New Jersey. There are more than 13,000 jobs at stake.

Those are the numbers you need to remember when you weigh the value of horse racing to the future of the state’s economy and in the status of open space.

Without a vibrant, healthy horse breeding industry, these greenways will become parkways.

From inception to delivery plus the time to raise the foals – or babies -- for sale, these breeders have invested three years. There is another 10 months before they are ready to race and are at training centers in Central New Jersey like Gaitway, Showplace, White Birch and others. And for the breeders and owners of these horses, it is a big gamble as to whether they will be good enough to race.

Even if they do make it to the races, only a percentage earn back their purchase price and the cost to train and care for the horse – which in New Jersey is in excess of $30,000 per horse annually. That is $30,000 going to support the trainers, the caretakers, veterinarians, blacksmiths, feed providers and all the others who are responsible for the well-being of that horse.

Nearly all the purse money made in New Jersey stays in New Jersey when the horse is stabled here to pay for all the people who are involved in caring for the horse.

Very little money trickles back to the owners, no matter where they live. Most horse owners are thrilled if their horse can earn enough to cover the bills. It is considered a good year if the owner does not have to go back into his pocket to support his horses.

If there is any pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, it is in a horse having a championship season that might not only result in a substantial bankroll, even a million dollars, but also the opportunity for a breeding career. A male horse, or stallion, who is in demand in the breeding shed has the potential to make his owners a lot of money – if he proves himself quickly. He can fall out of favor if there are no stars on the track from his first or second crop of youngsters.

This is an industry which becomes an addiction that outweighs the heartache. These horses require 24/7 attention, they require care whether they are successes or failures on the racetrack and everyone connected to them has a bit of the dreamer in him or her.

They are not so different than the two-dollar bettors who are trying to parlay their investments into a profit except that this is their livelihood, not their entertainment.

I would hope that by now you have come to the conclusion that this is an industry worth saving.

Our homes, our families and our livelihoods are here. We are passionate about our sport, about our industry.

We are good citizens and hope that New Jersey will not abandon its state animal, the horse, and its identity as the Garden State.

Much has been said about the horse industry being self-sustaining. In a way, that has always been impossible. It requires gambling to prime the economic engine that supports the breeding, training and racing of horses. The only difference now is that with the addition of lotteries and casinos, those gaming dollars are spread out and not necessarily going into pari-mutuel tote machines. But there is no reason that the dollars in slot machines cannot now be part of that economic engine and prime the pump for the state’s economic resurgence.

I thank you for your time and attention.

(with files from HTA & SBOANJ)