Gov. Chris Christie announced a compromise among legislative leaders on Monday that would let voters decide on North Jersey casinos. Political infighting prevented the issue’s passage by the end of this legislative year. The agreement ensures the measure will be voted on in the next session, but it comes with a higher hurdle for the Legislature. Christie, flanked by Senate President Stephen Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto, said at a press conference that Sweeney’s bill will be introduced in both houses in the next legislative session. It will include an amendment requiring the new casino operators to each invest a minimum of $1 billion, as recommended by Prieto. “We want real investment in the state of New Jersey,” Sweeney said. “We don’t want slots in a box.” The agreement ends the feud between lawmakers that made them miss a key procedural deadline to make approving the ballot question easier. Sweeney and Prieto each had his own proposed amendments, but neither would accept the other's proposal. The bills differed on who could own the new casinos and how much gambling tax money from those casinos would be used to redevelop Atlantic City. By failing to agree on a plan by Monday, proponents of new casinos now need a three-fifths majority in both houses to put the question on the November ballot. That is 48 votes in the Assembly and 24 in the Senate. Had lawmakers agreed on one plan and passed it with simple majorities Monday, the amendment would have needed just a simple majority vote in both houses in the next session. Earlier Monday, in what turned out to be just a symbolic vote, the Senate passed Sweeney’s bill by a vote of 33-6. It's unclear whether there is enough votes for a three-fifths majority in the Assembly, though Christie's support of the agreement may help garner Republican votes. Sweeney's bill would require that both casinos be owned by existing Atlantic City casino operators, but outside companies could partner with those operators and own up to 49 percent of a new casino. Sweeney's plan also uses more revenue collected from the new casinos to help Atlantic City. That money would not go to the city government or the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority. Instead, it would go to a non-profit investment fund. The agreement will also include language forcing operators to propose projects within a certain timeline “that will address the ability to make this move quickly,” Christie said. Casino gambling is currently limited to Atlantic City, which is still suffering from the closure of four casinos that cost about 8,000 lost jobs in 2014. Business leaders and Atlantic City-area elected officials are opposed to expanding casino gambling in the state, saying the new casinos will further devastate the local economy. Sen. Jim Whelan and Sen. Jeff Van Drew both opposed Sweeney’s bill on Monday. “It is foolish to think that gaming in North Jersey would do anything but cannibalize an already-saturated market in the same way that casinos in Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Maryland have cannibalized ours,” said Whelan, D-Atlantic. Van Drew, D-Cape May, Cumberland, Atlantic, said: “Allowing gaming elsewhere will devastate Atlantic City, creating further job loss and additional hardship for our residents.” Assemblyman Chris Brown, R-Atlantic, said regardless of the announced agreement, “our steadfast opposition made it harder for the Democrat leadership to put North Jersey casinos on the ballot” now that proponents need a larger majority. Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo, D-Atlantic, said there is “no agreement and no amount of money being sent back to Atlantic City” that will make up for the thousands who could jobs in the area. Sweeney, D-Salem, Gloucester, Cumberland, acknowledged the impact North Jersey casinos could have on Atlantic City, saying the city is “more than likely” going to lose jobs. But he said the plan will provide funding to help “create a city that’s an entertainment destination” and bring year-round businesses to the resort. Proponents of new casinos say expanding casino gaming will recapture gambling revenue lost to neighboring states while creating millions of dollars in new investment and thousands of new jobs in the state. Sweeney’s plan doesn’t specify the new casinos’ locations, though it says they must be in separate counties and at least 72 miles away from Atlantic City. The Meadowlands sports complex in East Rutherford and Jersey City are the most talked about possible locations. By CHRISTIAN HETRICK Reprinted with permission of the pressofatlanticcity.com site
The owner of the Tioga Downs racino in New York’s Southern Tier says a recent presentation to state officials made him optimistic about his proposal to expand his facility into a full casino. Jeff Gural told The Associated Press on Friday that the recent meeting with the state’s casino location review board went well and he’s confident local residents will support his plans at a public hearing scheduled for Friday in Binghamton. Gural also owns Vernon Downs and has said the futures of both harness racing tracks are linked. Tioga Downs submitted a bid for a casino license last year but the board instead recommended three other projects around the state. Tioga Downs submitted a second application when bidding was reopened for a fourth license.
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - June 3, 2015 - The plans for Hard Rock International to bring a casino to the Meadowlands Racetrack were unveiled at a well-attended media event on Wednesday, June 3, 2015 in the Victory Sports Bar at the Meadowlands. Jim Allen, chairman of Hard Rock International, and Jeff Gural, chairman of New Meadowlands Racetrack LLC, were joined by state legislators, chamber of commerce leaders and union leaders, all speaking on behalf of the plan, which calls for 5,000 slot machines and 200 gaming tables which could yield more than $400 million in new tax revenues annually for the State of New Jersey. "This was a positive step in the right direction," said Tom Luchento, president of the Standardbred Breeders & Owners Association of New Jersey, who was among the SBOANJ contingent attending the event. "I see the action stirred up with a better than 50-50 chance to get this on the ballot this year. We have enough legislators to move it forward if Senate President Steve Sweeney will post the bill. "We understand Senator Sweeney's concerns about presenting a ballot question in an off-year election year , but we'd get swallowed up in a Presidential election year ," Luchento added. "And this is not only about bigger purses. This is funding for seniors, students, the Atlantic City casinos, farmers, inner city parks. So there is a lot to explain to people." "This is not a fight between North and South Jersey," Gural told journalists and other guests at the media event. "The reality is that the competition is already there [for Atlantic City] from New York and Pennsylvania. We're 15 minutes - when it isn't rush hour -- from Times Square. I'm even more optimistic. I think we can generate $500 million a year for the state." Gural proposes to give the state 55 percent of revenues, the same arrangement as Pennsylvania and its casinos. "We're the No. 1 harness track in the world, but we have a real struggle to get people to race here," Gural noted. "We need to help the purses here and at Monmouth Park. We run a very clean operation. The people running horses here are the cream of the crop. "Saving the horse racing industry is just as important as saving Atlantic City," he added. Among the legislators attending were State Senators Raymond J. Lesniak, Paul A. Sarlo, Robert Gordon and Loretta Weinberg as well as Assembly Members Ralph R. Caputo, Marlene Caride, Valerie Vainieri Huttle and Vincent Prieto. "We have a lot to do with my colleagues," Sarlo said. "We'll get there as a group. We'll get to what we need to do to get this built. We can't wait two years. I'd like to get it up in six weeks if it was possible. But we'll work together. I promise to work with my colleagues to get this done." Two of the various issues are whether the referendum question for expanding casino wagering outside Atlantic City - public support is needed for a constitutional amendment - should be on this November's ballot or addressed in next year's; and whether there should be two or three licenses available in Bergen, Hudson and Essex Counties. As Hard Rock's Allen said, "This project [at the Meadowlands] as the ability to move ahead immediately. There are no financial contingencies." Hard Rock proposes a Phase 1 renovation, using areas of the existing Meadowlands grandstand, which opened two years ago. Phase 2 would entail additional casino construction. By Carol Hodes for the SBOANJ
East Rutherford, NJ --- Hard Rock International, owner of one of the world’s most iconic and recognized brands, announced today its plan to build a casino at the Meadowlands in New Jersey the home of harness racing. The proposed entertainment destination would be ideally situated in northern New Jersey and is projected to generate $400 million of new tax revenues a year. “With its close proximity to an international airport, the new casino would be designed to attract visitors from not only the 14 million adults in northern New Jersey and New York City, but also international travelers, making it a premier entertainment destination,” said Jim Allen, Chairman of Hard Rock International. “The significant tax revenue brought into New Jersey could go directly to aid in the development and reconstruction of Atlantic City’s casino and hotel industry.” Reports show a casino in northern New Jersey would help draw visitors from other states, creating competition with New York and Pennsylvania, who have taken more than $13 billion in revenue from New Jersey in the past eight years since they’ve expanded their gaming options. “We’re thrilled to bring this great offering to the New Meadowlands Racetrack,” said Jeff Gural, Chairman of New Meadowlands Racetrack LLC. “With its expertise in gaming, hotels, restaurants, live events, entertainment, and retail offerings, Hard Rock International is the ideal partner for New Meadowlands Racetrack; bringing the globally recognized brand to the racetrack elevates excitement surrounding the project.” The Hard Rock Casino will feature 5,000 slot machines and 200 gaming tables. The project will also feature ten restaurants and four bars; a multi-purpose Hard Rock Live showroom; New Jersey Music Hall of Fame; and “The Vault,” a music memorabilia museum expertly curated by Hard Rock -- owners of the world’s largest music memorabilia collection. The entertainment destination will also offer retail shops and a six-story parking garage conveniently located just steps away from the casino grounds. Gural reiterated his continuing commitment to harness racing as part of the future Hard Rock plans. “I’m a horse guy and that’s what brought me here,” he said. “In my heart, this is good for the state of New Jersey. We are dedicated to making this work for the entire state of New Jersey, we certainly would offer jobs to people who lost their jobs in Atlantic City.” He also cited the importance of the 13,000 New Jersey citizens who make their living in the equine business, and specifically about half of those who make their living through horse racing. Gural expressed his optimism that the annual tax revenue to the state would exceed Hard Rock’s $400 million projections, especially in the first few years when other New Jersey competition may be limited initially. Attendance was heavy from dozens of state political leaders, business executives and union representatives, who support the proposed plan and the jobs and economic engine it would provide for the region. State Senator Paul Sarlo acknowledged the political challenges at hand and pledged to “balance competing interests with all our colleagues.” Central to the proposal, and delineated on a graphic presentation shown to attendees, is a “minimum $300 billion investment in Atlantic City (infrastructure) via tax exempt bonds.” Estimates call for creation of about 2,360 construction jobs and 5,000 ongoing jobs. In a question and answer session at the close of prepared presentations, the issue of overcoming the constitutional amendment that states that no casinos are allowed to operate outside Atlantic City was addressed. Current legislative action is focused on an enabling referendum that would amend the constitution to allow for casinos outside Atlantic City, which is located about 125 miles south of The Meadowlands. At present, there is no consensus among political leaders on whether the referendum should run this fall, when there will likely be lower turnout than expected in the presidential election in 2016, or to run it next fall, when turnout will be higher, but costs to reach voters to educate them about the issue will be more expensive. Both Allen and Gural favor a 2015 referendum and believe that with voter approval, they could have the first phase of the project ready in the summer or early fall of 2016. Gural said research on the possible referendum indicates the measure would be well received this fall and that costs to educate voters on the issue would be in the range of $10 to 20 million. Also at issue is the question of how many casinos will be allowed, with some lawmakers favoring one, and some up to three, with consideration also given to Monmouth Park, a Thoroughbred track along the New Jersey shore. by Ellen Harvey, Harness Racing Communications
Hard Rock Casino Meadowlands — a partnership between the Florida-based gaming company and the Meadowlands Racetrack — is the name of a proposed new casino that will be unveiled next week, track operator Jeff Gural said Tuesday. The announcement will come about a month before a deadline for state election officials to approve a question for the November ballot on ending Atlantic City’s casino monopoly in New Jersey. State Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney said last July that he would seek to place such a referendum in on the November 2015 ballot because the deadline to add it to the November 2014 ballot had just passed. But three weeks ago, Sweeney said he was considering whether to wait a year, until the 2016 general election, given the low turnout expected with only Assembly members up for statewide election this fall. “We believe that expanding gaming to North Jersey will strengthen the state’s casino industry, boost the economy and help Atlantic City’s financial recovery, but there is no specific timetable at this point,” said Richard McGrath, Sweeney’s spokesman. Gural and other North Jersey casino supporters, however, say the ailing horse racing and Atlantic City casino industries cannot wait any longer to benefit from shares of an estimated $400 million or more in annual tax revenues that could be raised from operation of a Meadowlands casino. “We’re offering to pay a high tax rate, around 50 percent, just like Pennsylvania,” Gural said, adding that the new casino would be attached to the two-year-old grandstand near Paterson Plank Road. “I know there are people who think we’d just be building ‘slots in a box,’ but this is a spectacular project and I want them to see what we have in mind.” The renderings and video of the proposal are to be shown at a press conference next Wednesday at the new grandstand. State Sen. Paul Sarlo, D-Wood-Ridge, who has been briefed on the proposal, said that Hard Rock makes for a “premier international and gaming partner” for the track. “It doesn’t automatically mean that Jeff is getting [a casino], but he is out of the gate much quicker than anybody else,” Sarlo said. Gural said that polling has shown that the Meadowlands is a more popular site for a casino than potential locations in Jersey City and Newark, given the absence of residences on the grounds of the Meadowlands Sports Complex. Approval of the ballot question, which is likely to ask voters to approve up to two casinos in North Jersey, is far from assured. But if the ballot question is offered and then passes in November, the Legislature and Governor Christie — as they did following a referendum supporting sports betting in 2011 — likely would turn that support into law by early 2016. That would be followed by a months-long bidding process, likely pushing a casino opening into 2018 at the earliest. In 2013, Hard Rock, a subsidiary of Seminole Hard Rock Entertainment, announced an equity stake of 16 percent of the new $100 million Meadowlands grandstand that was then under construction. That deal included an option to invest in “any projected future developments at the racetrack” and to promote concerts and festivals at the track. Three months ago, Hard Rock was issued a “certificate of compliance” by the Casino Control Commission that would be a preliminary requirement for a casino anywhere that it was permitted by the state. Gural reached an agreement in 2011 with the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority that entitles him to a refund of his construction costs if a casino is built at the Meadowlands Sports Complex and operated by anyone other than him. By John Brennan Reprinted with permission of Northjersey.com
For quite a period now, the future of harness racing in North America has been closely aligned with the Casino Industry. To overcome restrictions on setting up stand alone Casinos, a lot of operators have set up Casinos at thoroughbred and harness racing venues. State governments have required the Casino Operators to support and promote the racing product due to the racing industry being so job intensive which affects everybody's bottom line if they were to fold due to the competition from the Casinos. To get around these restrictions, some Casino Operators have come up with some clever race programming to kill off the racing side of their business. Devise a program schedule that is light on money and very prescriptive as to the race conditions and you make it impossible for racing to survive long term. It is an outcome that some casino operators are trying to achieve. The video below summed up the overall position very nicely. Harnesslink Media
On Thursday (August 14) 10 local charities participated in the 2nd Annual OHHA and Scioto Downs Harness Racing Charity Night at the races. Scioto Downs and The OHHA invited 10 local charities to participate in a charity race where the charities would draw for horses in the 7th race on the program. The 10 charities included the ALS Association, The Alzheimers Association, The American Cancer Society, The American Red Cross, The Arthritis Foundation, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, The Central Ohio Parkinson Society, The Ronald McDonald House, The 4-H Youth Development Organization and Children's Hunger Alliance. Each charity had the opportunity to earn the purse distribution on the selected race. The winner would receive $5,000, second would receive $2,500, third would receive $1,200, fourth would receive $800.00, fifth place would receive $500.00 and the remaining sixth through tenth finishers receive $500.00. Scioto Downs had a faux draw to assign the charities post positions and horses that would race for their charity. The post positions were as follows: 1. Darth Quaider- Central Ohio Parkinson Society 2. Pow Chicka Pow Pow- The Ronald McDonald House 3. Cyclops- The American Cancer Society 4. CC Big Boy Sam- The Arthritis Foundation 5. Milliron Pete- American Red Cross 6. Phantom Flasher- Big Brothers/Big Sisters 7. He's Got It- Children's Hunger Alliance 8. Giddy Up Binks- Alzheimers Association 9. Forever Kissed- 4-H Youth Development Organization 10. Raz Ma Taz- ALS Association Forever Kissed and Kayne Kauffman crossed the wire first in a career best, 1:54 to earn $5,000 for the 4-H Youth Development Organization. CC Big Boy Sam was second, Cyclops and Greg Grismore rallied for third, Giddy Up Binks was fourth and He's Got It came on late for fifth. All charities received a $500.00 bonus donation on behalf of Scioto Downs, giving each charity at least, a total donation of $1,000.00. Racing resumes Friday (August 15) post time is 6:30 p.m. From Scioto Downs Racino
Harrington, DE --- Harrington Raceway’s 68th season of live harness racing will get underway Monday night (April 21) with a 15-race program scheduled to start at 5:30 p.m. There will be a hat giveaway (while supplies last) at 5 p.m. on the lower level of the grandstand, as well as $1 hot dogs and $1 live racing programs throughout the evening. Most of the track regulars are back in action including 2013 leading trainer Joe Hundertpfund, Jr. and leading drivers Ross Wolfenden and George Dennis, who finished in a deadlock last season. There is also a new face on the opening day program, as one of the leading drivers on the Yonkers Raceway circuit, Eric Goodell, will be in town competing in nine races. The featured $17,000 Open is carded sixth on the program and will wrap up the Pick-4 wager (races three-six). Cataway Racing Stable’s Lollipop Kid (2-1, Victor Kirby), who was claimed on February 27 at Dover Downs for $25,000, was installed as the morning line favorite on the heels of a lifetime best win in 1:49.1 at Dover. The wagering format will appear similar in years past to the Harrington faithful, as superfecta wagering will be available in all races but race three, the first leg of the Pick-4. Harrington’s signature race, the Bobby Quillen Memorial, will be held on Sept. 8 (eliminations if necessary) and Sept. 15 (final). Last year‘s event featured a stirring stretch duel from Clear Vision and Foiled Again with the former prevailing in a track record 1:49.2. Harrington will race on a Sunday through Wednesday schedule with the exception of closing night for the spring/summer season on July 3. There will be a hiatus until the annual Governor’s Night at the Races program on July 25, before the meet resumes on a Monday through Thursday schedule on August 18. Customers wishing to make clubhouse reservations are encouraged to do so by calling 302.398.5920. by Matt Sparacino, for Harrington Raceway
By Bill Liblick, re-printed with permission by www.sullivancountypost.com As EPR Properties and Empire Resorts prepares to present their resort destination plans next Thursday evening at a private presentation at Bethel Woods, and not at Empire’s operational facility, the harness racing horsemen at Monticello Raceway have declared war. The horsemen feel they have been betrayed and used as a pawn by Empire Resorts, the owner of Monticello Raceway, and are fearful that the Standardbred racetrack and the industry that has employed thousands of residents over the years in Sullivan County will be gone if the company receives a license to operate a full-fledged gaming hall. When racino’s were permitted in New York State it saved the horse racing industry from dying. The introduction of video slot terminals has seen racetracks such as Monticello, Tioga Downs, Saratoga, and Yonkers flourish thanks to a percentage of the take going into racing purses. Although attendance and actual pool totals from Monticello Raceway attendees is minimal, the racetrack has become a cash cow for Empire Resorts thanks to simulcasting and off-track betting wagering. Monticello Raceway has in essence become a huge television studio. Under proposals from EPR and Empire Resorts they say they are going to construct a new harness track at the Concord no matter what happens – with or without table games – but will they? Horsemen claim Empire Resorts is capping purses at 2013 levels and if they are granted a table gaming license there will be no increases. They also say there are no guarantees the harness track will even remain open. The Monticello Harness Horsemen’s Association has declared a war against Empire Resorts. They argue track owners slammed the door on them once the resort destination amendment was approved in November and that they refuse to negotiate. Things are so bad, the horsemen have exercised their right to stop Monticello’s simulcast signal from being broadcast, preventing Empire Resorts and New York State from receiving millions in revenue. Empire has since slashed purses and cut back the number of races in a card. They have even shut down the horsemen’s lunch room. According to Alan Schwartz, President of Monticello’s Harness Association The dispute between management and the horsemen at Monticello Raceway is very easy to understand. “The parent company of the racetrack seeks to obtain a lucrative license to construct a Las Vegas style casino, complete with slot machines and table games. They would be one of just two, and possibly the only casino permitted in the Catskills. Despite the tremendous windfall such a license would bring to the parent company, it flatly refuses to allow the horsemen or breeders to share in any portion of the huge anticipated profits.” Schwartz claims that “in order to get the casino amendment passed, management both figuratively and literally called the horsemen their “partners.” The logo of their lobbying group prominently contains a horse. Their radio commercials ballyhooed their support for racing. Of course, once the amendment passed, management’s idea of “partnership” quickly degenerated.” Under the present video lottery gaming law, horsemen and breeders get a fixed percentage of the track’s net win. When a racino underperforms, the purse money generated is less, even though it isn’t the horsemen’s fault. When the racino does well, purses go up modestly – In essence a true economic partnership. Schwartz maintains Empire Resorts wants a firm cap on purses and breeding contributions at 2013 levels. He says if that happens, harness racing will become a near-zero or zero growth industry. “Nobody is going to buy or breed horses in this state when places like Ohio, Massachusetts, Delaware and Pennsylvania offer significantly more industry support.” Schwartz acknowledges that harness racing won’t die in the next several years, but “consider, however, that the price of feed, diesel fuel, veterinary services; literally anything you can think of, will be significantly higher in just a few years. Once you can’t pay to maintain racehorses, the sport will evaporate from sheer economics – And that’s exactly what our racetrack management “partners” would love to see happen.” Although Empire Resorts blames Albany for the horsemen’s plight, Schwartz asserts the law speaks only about minimum contributions. “No government can interfere with the private right of contract. Racetrack management hides behind Albany when, in reality, their own lobbyists pushed for and signed off on the legislation.” Schwartz says “The horsemen and breeders at Monticello and elsewhere refuse to be “silent” former partners. If management wishes to embrace us as economic partners, as mandated under the video lottery gaming law, gaming can move forward in a meaningful way in the Catskills, and the renaissance created by Albany through the VLT program can continue to flourish, for not only the six harness tracks owners but also for the state, education and the agriculture and racing industries. If that doesn’t occur, we really have nothing else to lose.” Schwartz professes he is trying to negotiate in good faith, but Empire Resorts is not, so with “few weapons in this fight” they had to pull the simulcasting signal. “We are also acutely aware of the loss of revenue to the track, the horsemen and the industry. Yet, we have pondered just how much money these track operators strive for while they jeopardize an entire industry for their own profit; a racing industry that worked hard to spawn the birth of VLTs at tracks in this and other states. We cannot just sit by and watch an industry get swallowed up by a handful of track operators professing to be concerned about our sport, whose ultimate goal is to kill it.” The right to withhold the export of signal from Monticello is a right granted to horsemen by Federal law. Schwartz explained, “That 1978 law very wisely recognizes that the horsemen at a host track are the real guardians of this sport. It armed the horsemen with the important tool to use only when they perceived a crisis threatening the very existence of the game. It has been used very sparingly and with the utmost of caution.” A mediator has been appointed by the New York State Gaming Commission in an attempt to resolve the situation. Charles Degliomini, executive vice president of Empire Resorts/Monticello Raceway issued the following statement in response the suspension of simulcasting. “Monticello Casino & Raceway (“MC&R”) continues to support the Upstate New York Gaming Economic Development Act (“Gaming Act”). When they authored the Gaming Act, the Senate, Assembly and the Executive protected the Monticello Harness Horsemen’s Association (“MHHA”), and the entire racing industry. As New York State moves toward approving four casinos in upstate New York, future revenue for the horsemen is governed by the Gaming Act, and current revenue is governed by the New York State Lottery for Education Law. Degliomini added, “It is sad and unfortunate that we are being attacked for legislation that actually protects harness horsemen’s interests. While MC&R continues in good faith, through negotiation and mediation, to attempt to secure an agreement with MHHA, the MHHA is now attempting to amend a law that they don’t like by unfairly punishing our business, our employees, our loyal customers and even their own members. We are simply track owners, not elected officials. The MHHA should stop this destructive behavior and turn the simulcasting signal back on.” With all the new resort destination proposals coming out of the woodwork this dispute is something Sullivan County does not need. Schwartz does raise many valid concerns that must be addressed if a racino operator is granted a full gaming license, Monticello Raceway, the horsemen, and the industry must be protected.
Gregg Keidel, a native of Ohio and someone who has contributed much to Buckeye State harness racing in various capacities over the last 35 years, is “returning home” as the race secretary at both of the new Dayton-area racinos that will be filling the traditional racing spot formerly held by venerable Lebanon Raceway: Miami Valley Raceway, a joint venture of Churchill Downs and Delaware North which will soon open the 2014 racing season in southern Ohio, and Dayton Raceway, a “Hollywood Slots”/Penn National venture which will follow Scioto Downs’ traditional summer meet in what is envisaged as an almost year-round circuit. Most of Keidel’s experience, as those familiar with him know, was picked up in the northeastern part of the state, at what was known then (and still is by many) as Northfield Park in Cleveland. Following his selling a chain of weekly newspapers which he had managed to success at an early age, Keidel got into harness racing as an owner, but it wasn’t long before he was training and driving his own horses, racing at Northfield, Windsor in Ontario, and the county fairs. Gregg had two early successes in his stable’s black and green colors: the pacer Blastabaroness, a top two-year-old Ohio filly of 1984 who gave Keidel 12 of his 14 victories very early in his sulky career; and a caretaker plucked out of waiterdom from the Northfield clubhouse who would go on to be known to many fans over 6000 victories later, Jim Pantaleano. Keidel’s newspaper experience led him to supplement his stable’s income by serving as a part time publicist for the track, and when a position in the racing office as assistant to Dennis Haskell opened, Gregg saw a more “stable” life for himself and his family and decamped there fulltime, shortly becoming Northfield racing secretary, a post he would hold for over 20 years as Northfield built itself into one of the hardest-working successes in the sport. During most of this time, Keidel “kept himself in the stirrups” on the Billings amateur circuit, being named Amateur Driver of the Year in North America in 2001. “I’ve had some of the best experiences in my life from amateur driving,” Gregg states. “I’ve been blessed to make six overseas trips as part of a visiting team of amateurs taking on the host countries, and they certainly have provided quite a few good memories. I’m also proud I notched my 100th win during Jug week in Delaware,” in 2007. When Running Aces Harness Park opened north of Minneapolis in 2008, Keidel took on the challenge as race office boss during the summer meet, getting a midseason leave of absence from the Cleveland oval, and he combined the two jobs until deciding to focus on Running Aces in 2010, with Florida judging his other source of income (though he also handled the last meet at Toledo Raceway Park last year – mainly from Running Aces!). One of the great aspects for Keidel in his new jobs is that the spring meet at Miami Valley and the fall meet at Dayton Raceway bookend the summer action in Minnesota beautifully. “I think these new opportunities in Ohio are exciting,” Gregg opines. “The parent companies all come from a racing base, and they understand that you have to promote both the racing and the casino play, whereas elsewhere many of the owners come from straight from the casino world, and the racing is often given a very secondary status.” The new 5/8-mile track at Miami Valley, nine miles from Lebanon Raceway, will accommodate nine-horse behind the starting gate – and Keidel would be very happy to have some full gates as MVR opens on February 7. “I am being realistic about how many horses we will attract at first,” he said. “There is no barn area here – we had a lot of inquiries from horsemen about stabling, but there just aren’t that many stalls available in the area right now, although some county fairs are talking about refurbishing their barn areas and staying open as training centers all year. Also, we have had some of the most miserable weather in the last few weeks around here (Gregg, it hasn’t been just around you – ed.), and a lot of horsemen are behind schedule in bringing horses back.” Indeed, the day this story was written, qualifying standards of 2:10 for pacers and 2:12 for trotters within 45 days were announced as a temporary measure until trainers get back on their schedules. If the horses may need a start or two to hit top stride, the same cannot be said about the driving colony. The last three North American driving champions – Ron Wrenn Jr. (2013), Dave Palone (2012), and Dan Noble (2011) – have committed to racing at Miami Valley during opening weekend, and interest in regular racing has been indicated by five other drivers with 3000+ wins: Greg Grismore, Randy Tharps, Tony Hall, Pat Berry ,… …and remember that Northfield waiter who got his start with the Keidel barn? Yes, count Jim Pantaleano, now 6,150 wins ahead of his former boss, among those likely to be checking out Miami Valley. For the opening two cards, Friday, Feb. 7 and Saturday, Feb. 8, Miami Valley will draw on Tuesday, Feb. 4. Gregg Keidel and the rest of the Miami Valley team will be hoping for some luck rubbing off on that date – because that day it will have been exactly 50 years since Pompano Park staged its first-ever card. It will be much warmer in Florida than it will be in southwest Ohio, but Pompano certainly has had its share of magic over the years – and Gregg Keidel has been in the horse game long enough to take magic, luck, or anything else that will aid his cause and that of his management. By Jerry Connors for Harnesslink.com
Columbus, OH --- Scioto Downs will once again host Grand Circuit racing during the 2014 summer racing season. The Laverne Hill Memorial Pace will be the first Grand Circuit race to be held at the Columbus five-eighths-mile oval in 2014 on May 17, Preakness Day. The 4-year-old and up mare pace will be raced as an overnight with no nominating fee and will go for $50,000 (guaranteed). The top 10 lifetime money earners entered will race, with no more than two horses eligible to race per stable. Three weeks later on Belmont Day (June 7), Scioto will host the Charlie Hill Memorial Trot for $200,000 (guaranteed). This late closing event is for 4-year-old and up trotters and horses must be nominated by April 15 for $500. The top 10 lifetime money earners that enter (with not more than two horses racing per stable) will race; if more than 10 horses enter, the nomination fee will be refunded to those that entered but do not race. On closing night, Sept. 27, Scioto will host the second annual Jim Ewart Memorial Pace. This $200,000 (guaranteed) invitational pace will have no nominating fee and be open to those horses that are 4-year-olds and up by invitation only. It has been more than seven years since Scioto has hosted Grand Circuit events, when the track hosted the Tompkins-Geers events for 3-year-olds in 2006. The purse account has greatly benefited since the infusion of VLT money when the first machines opened in June 2012. “We are excited to be able to host Grand Circuit races at Scioto,” said Scioto’s General Manager of Racing Operations Stacy Cahill. “We look forward to once again being a part of one of the oldest traditions in harness racing and bringing some of the best horses in the country to Columbus.” Scioto’s 2014 racing season starts on Thursday (May 8) and runs through Saturday (Sept. 27), racing Tuesday-Saturday in May, June and July and Wednesday-Saturday in August and September. Post time will be at 6:30 p.m. except for special 1 p.m. holiday cards on Memorial Day, the July 4 and Labor Day. More information on the 2014 racing season will be posted towww.sciotodowns.com/racing as it becomes available. Submitted by Scioto Downs Racino
After more than a century of harness racing, there is speculation Saint John’s Exhibition Park may have hosted its last race. The final race card of the season was cancelled and a recent study found that the facility is not a suitable location for a racino. Gilles Barrieau has been working around the barns and race track at Exhibition Park since he was 15 years old, but now he’s uncertain about his future as an accomplished harness racer. “There’s absolutely nobody left and it’s gotten so bad that I just don’t know how this place is going to get revived again, actually,” says Barrieau. In past years, hundreds of horses filled the barns at the Exhibition Park Raceway, but today many of the barns sit empty. Some horseman have moved to other communities while others have left the industry altogether. The Atlantic Lottery Corporation looked at the possibility of locating a racino at Exhibition Park, but found no viable business case. “Unless there is some plan that I haven’t seen, then as far as I’m concerned, it’s just a matter of time and harness racing will no longer be in the City of Saint John,” says Tory MLA Glen Tait. Tait has been a long-time supporter of the industry, but says neither government nor business has the money needed to keep harness racing going. “It would take a huge amount of investment to bring it up to where it should be, to attract people, because it’s not going to attract anybody the way it is today, and I don’t know any business or anybody that’s going to invest that kind of money,” he says. Tait says hope for a racino in Saint John was quashed when a decision was made to build a casino in Moncton. Barrieau says he is considering joining local horseman who have moved to Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, or Maine to make a living. “If I was a betting man, I would think things are not going to happen here again,” he says. “I hope they do, but I’m keeping my options open for the spring.” Click here to see the TV news story about this by Mike Cameron, reprinted with permission from http://atlantic.ctvnews.ca/
"NYS Assembly Committee on Racing Delves Into Economic Impacts of harness Racing" Commentary delivered by Joe Faraldo, Alex Dadoyan of the SOA of NY and Betty Holt of Harness Horse Breeders. Testimony Submitted by the Standardbred Owners Association of New York to the NYS Assembly Committee on Racing & Wagering December 2013 Thank you Chairman Pretlow for the opportunity to present testimony on behalf of the Standardbred Owners Association of New York, the Empire State Harness Horsemen’s Alliance and harness horsemen from across New York regarding the incredibly positive economic impacts generated by our harness racing and agricultural industries across the state. I thought I’d begin by reading a brief excerpt from a fact sheet submitted to state legislators in the spring of 2003 by harness horsemen detailing what we anticipated would be the positive future impacts of a New York video lottery terminal (VLT) initiative that was just about to come on-line. We predicted: “…if revenues from the VLTs are distributed equitably to horsemen, purses and breeders funds, then this new program will not only generate a major new revenue stream for education, but also will trigger a renaissance for the entire horse racing industry in the state. These funds will bring more high-quality horses to New York tracks and make breeding a more lucrative industry in the state. As more breeders come to New York and owners and trainers expand the number of horses in their stables, numerous related industries will benefit indirectly. Clearly, one of the major benefactors of the addition of VLT’s at racetracks will be the agriculture industry.” Fast forward a decade later and virtually every one of those harness racing predictions – higher purses, expanded agriculture, thriving breeding farms, and tens of thousands of racing related jobs across New York State – has come true. As the Assembly noted in its own notice for this hearing, a 2011 economic impact study commissioned by New York’s racing and agriculture stakeholders concluded that our industry generated an overall $4.2 billion economic impact statewide and was responsible for 33,000 jobs. So, not only have VLTs generated hundreds of millions of dollars in critical funding for education across the state, but New York’s harness industry has returned to its rightful place as a national leader and the promise of a New York racing renaissance has become a reality. WHY THIS HISTORY IS IMPORTANT AND THE REASON HORSEMEN ARE NOW SERIOUSLY CONCERNED FOR THE FUTURE As New York State prepares to undergo major changes to our gaming environment in the wake of the recently-approved casino gaming amendment, it is critically important to fully understand the significant economic gains that have taken place in the NY harness industry as a direct result of the existing VLT initiative and, more significantly, to recognize the potential impacts that the amendment’s enacting language could have on racing and agriculture. For example, as you are aware, this enacting language includes a provision that mandates certain racing industry payments (derived from casino gaming) be maintained at 2013 levels (with a small cost of living adjustment based on the federal consumer price index). And while this provision – which specifically relates to existing racinos that may receive a full casino gaming license and morph into a casino – has been characterized as a “floor” (ensuring that payments for purse support and breeding do not fall below 2013 levels), the fact is that the language, as written, also acts as an absolute “ceiling,” capping these payments at a virtually static 2013 level and not allowing for any future growth. While we are obviously grateful for the creation of a hold harmless provision to ensure that agriculture and racing jobs are not immediately negatively impacted, our concern is that this hard cap on payments to agriculture and racing from casinos will essentially serve as a hard cap on any future, additional growth in racing and agriculture. The message that this will send to potential investors – who, as you will see from my testimony below, have absolutely flocked to our state in record numbers in recent years – is that New York may be doing well now, but is closed for future business and has no horse breeding or racing investment opportunities available to them moving forward. Other competing racing states have recognized that racing and breeding should grow right along with casino gaming and the very real fear now resonating throughout farms, training facilities and racetracks across New York is that we’ll not only fall behind in future growth, but that New York will eventually start to lose some of the hard-fought gains we’ve already achieved. And to see exactly what is at risk, one need only look at recent statistics and real life case studies from the industry. RACING AND AGRICULTURE-RELATED ECONOMIC IMPACTS OF VLTs IN NEW YORK STATE The thoughtful, dual purpose VLT initiative implemented by New York State – charged with funding education and supporting a horse racing industry that is a major job-generator across virtually every region of the state – has increased purses and attracted investment into our breeding and agriculture sectors like never before. New farms and training facilities are opening in regions across the state and our high-quality New York Standardbred horses are commanding the highest prices by far at auction. While my full submitted testimony has a wide range of statistics for your review, let me just summarize by pointing out that virtually every indicator – the number of mares in New York, stud fees, sales prices, etc. – has increased exponentially since 2001. REAL LIFE CASE STUDIES DEMONSTRATE MULTI-MILLION DOLLAR ECONOMIC IMPACTS The economic multiplier effects of this purse money on various sectors of the New York’s economy are really quite amazing. Again, my full written testimony includes a number of very real, very concrete, very significant case studies that demonstrate how VLT-generated purse money is filtering throughout our local economies and is attracting even more investment across New York State. Needless to say, these cases – from the $9 million in capital investments at Blue Chip Farms to Mark Ford’s new $8 million dollar training center in Middletown – are proof positive that purse money is being directly invested back into the New York State economy. Clearly, this isn’t just economic theory, conjecture or even predictions from a decade ago. These are proven, on-the-ground economic gains in communities throughout New York State that are taking place thanks to our harness racing industry. HOW CAN WE ENSURE FUTURE JOB CREATION AND GROWTH? In light of all of these clear and positive economic gains, it should come as no surprise that horsemen, breeders, farmers and tens of thousands of others who are dependent on racing for their livelihoods are deeply concerned about how the coming expansion of casino gaming in New York State will impact these important economic benefits. As noted earlier, other competing racing states have recognized that racing and breeding should grow right along with casino gaming, so one must ask why horsemen or breeders would invest additional resources – or even keep their existing horses already here in New York – when they can anticipate greater additional growth in nearby states? With 33,000 New York State equine jobs at stake, it obviously makes complete sense to have a “hold harmless” provision to ensure that agriculture and breeding don’t get hurt by the expansion of full casino gaming. However, what is less clear is the economic or policy rationale for capping racing industry support payments at 2013 levels for racinos that become full casinos and not allowing the opportunity for any future growth or investment in a critically important, proven, job-creating New York industry. Recent record sales numbers by New York-bred horses at national sales demonstrate that breeding gains are continuing apace and there is no doubt that significant opportunities for additional growth in our agricultural sector exist across the state. Within this clear and compelling economic context, the SOA of New York and harness horsemen from across the state are asking the New York State Legislature to reevaluate and reconsider the specific provision included in the casino enacting legislation that mandates a cap on racing industry support levels at the 2013 level. While eliminating this cap would obviously require the creation of a new formula for determining reasonable and appropriate levels of industry support payments from full casino gaming (including both slots and table games), we are committed to working collaboratively with both legislators and gaming industry stakeholders to develop a workable solution. Our experience with the existing VLT initiative has shown that it is possible to create win-win-win scenarios, and we look forward to working with you and your colleagues to continue to support and grow equine industry jobs in the great state of New York. Thank you. CONTACTS: Joe Faraldo, Standardbred Owners Association of NY 718-544- 6800 Joni Yoswein, Yoswein New York (representing the SOA of NY) 212-233-5700
Delaware, OH --- All roads led to Ohio as owners and trainers from 29 states, Canada, and Europe flocked to the Delaware County Fairgrounds for the 66th annual Fall Blooded Horse Sale. Opening day featured nearly 25% of Ohio’s total yearling crop, along with over 100 Indiana-breds and a large number of Pennsylvania, Ontario, and New York breds. The strong catalogue of slots enhanced sire stakes eligibles drove prices to a record high. The next three days contained 198 2-year-olds, 297 3-year-olds, 87 weanlings and hundreds of raceway horses and broodmares. The top priced yearling and ultimate sale topper was an Always A Virgin sister to Indiana champion Color’s A Virgin. Brown Color was purchased from the Emerald Highlands consignment by Dan Shetler for $43,000. Next in line was an Ohio-bred Feelin Friskie colt from the Midland Acres consignment purchased by Burke Racing Stable LLC for $42,000. Spring Haven Farm sold a Total Truth brother to top Indiana colt Totally Kissed for $37,000 and Walnut Hall Ltd sold an Ontario bred Deweycheatumnhowe filly for $32,000. Broodmares were led by the young Andover Hall prospect, Ladyfinger 3,1:59.2f, that was purchased by Black Creek Farm in Indiana for $28,000 from Marty Wollam. Hoosier Standardbred Farm stepped up at $15,000 for Sexpot Hall in foal to Deweycheatunmhowe from the Walnut Hall Ltd consignment. That farm also provided the top weanlings, a Conway Hall filly from the family of two $1 million earners and a Groton Hall half-brother to two 1:54 trotters, that each brought $20,000. Competitive racehorses are always in demand and five of them shared the spotlight at $20,000 each. Nidaros, a Muscle Yankee non-winners of two consigned by Kjell Magne Andersen, was purchased by Jeff Clark of Maryland. Indiana Sires competitor, Fancy Colt, left Emerald Highlands Farm on a bid from Red Shaw in Ohio. Competitive $20,000 claimer Darth Quaider was purchased by Steve Richard of Massachusetts. The rugged raceway mare Athleticlyinclined, with $278,575 lifetime earnings, was picked up by John Mungillo of New York from Burke Racing Stable LLC. And Dan Kennedy added the Open pacer Lost Jewels to his racehorses in preparation for the December opening of Hard Rock Racino Northfield Park. Complete sale results are available at www.bloodedhorse.com. The Blooded Horse Sale Company holds quarterly mixed sales at the home of the Little Brown Jug in Delaware, Ohio The next sale is February 10-11, 2014. Entries close around January 10. by Dot Morgan for Blooded Horse Sale
“The jury is still out on this one,” said Joe Faraldo, attorney for Standardbred Breeders Association of New York in pertaining to the passage of the casino gaming legislation in New York after yesterday’s elections. “It’s sort of like a wet kiss in the night,” Faraldo explained. “The legislation has been passed but no one has really seen this legislation and not enough people paid attention to the details.” “I am very pleased for us at Tioga and for Monticello and Saratoga that the legislation passed.” Said Jeff Gural, president and CEO of Tioga Downs, Vernon Downs and the Meadowlands. “It bodes well for the sport and obviously we are happy. It should give us a leg up on the competition for the future.” I was also pleased with the election results,” Gural added. “You never know how the people will turn out for an election. But the issue in New York was strong for more public jobs that the casinos will bring and it was not a moral issue about gambling.” Faraldo explained that the new legislation at best will allow Saratoga Raceway, Monticello Raceway and Tioga Downs the opportunity to have full-fledged casinos (slots and live table games). But Batavia Downs, Buffalo Raceway and Vernon Downs are excluded from any chance because they are too close to already established Indian casinos. Yonkers Raceway, as part of the legislation, is excluded from any consideration for live table games for seven years. It was also pointed out by Faraldo and Todd Haight, the General Manager of racing at Batavia Downs, that any revenue from live table games in New York, is treated the same as in Pennsylvania, and does not share a percentage with the tracks for purses or for the New York Sire Stakes program. “The legislation is wordy about a cap of agricultural and racing business,” Faraldo added. “There is a freeze at 2013 consumer pricing for purse levels and growth of the industry. Currently 25% net win sets what purse money is allotted to tracks and to the breeding program (NYSS). So when a Racino turns into a Casino and gets live table games, the cap is on 2013 levels. “This can mean that racing can get less revenue if more money is spent on live games than the slot machines,” Farado explained. “Most of the Racinos now have electronic table games for craps, roulette and some have blackjack but when those games are replaced by live games, then racing will lose out on revenue.” When might Tioga Downs, Saratoga Raceway and Monticello Raceway see their Racinos turn into Casinos? “It will take some time for the selection committees to come up with the rules and regulations,” Gural said. “At least a year or more from now and they won’t get started on it until it becomes law on January 1, 2014. I feel this will be great for us because the table games will bring a younger demographic to the casino and for racing. We still have a bidding process to go through for the three tracks but I am hopeful it will all work out in our favor.” “There is a lot of permitting and new rules that have to be developed,” Faraldo explained. “It could be one year, one and half years, even two years before the first full gaming casino comes about. That is a tough call. “I think the three racinos that could turn into full casino will most certainly benefit from it.” Faraldo added. “It may not be a home run for them but more like hitting ground balls, which is still good.” By Steve Wolf for Harnesslink.com
Plans for a slot parlor in Plainville got a boost from voters Tuesday, while residents in West Springfield rejected a casino proposal for their town. Plainville residents voted in favor of Penn National’s plans for a slots parlor, with 76 percent approving a host agreement with the gambling company. With a 37 percent turnout, 1,582 Plainville residents supported having a slots parlor in their community, while just 502 opposed, according to results read by Town Clerk Ellen Robertson. Separately, West Springfield voters on Tuesday defeated a casino proposal by Hard Rock, by a vote of 4,165 to 3,413. That leaves only MGM in Springfield and Mohegan Sun in Palmer the remaining alternatives in Western Massachusetts. In Plainville, if Penn wins the state’s sole slot parlor license and is also permitted to continue harness racing, the company would acquire the 89-acre racetrack property in town at Interstate 495 and Route 1, about 5 miles south of Gillette Stadium. The track would be renovated and expanded to fit as many as 1,250 slot machines and other amenities. In Plainville, the results were read at the Beatrice Wood School, the town’s lone polling location to a loud cheer from about 25 townspeople, many of whom said the promise of more than $4 million a year in taxes, and a strong desire to keep harness racing alive in the state swayed public opinion. “We got our votes out, this town needs this,” said Dale Bergvine , a lifelong Plainville resident and member of the pro-slots group People for Plainville. Plainridge track spokesman Bill Ryan said the vote reflects a tremendous amount of confidence in the project. “It’s not bad considering we were dead three weeks ago,” he said, grinning, referring to the company’s losing effort to persuade Tewksbury to back a slots parlor. Mary-Ann Greanier, a member of No Plainville Racino said her group is considering it’s next move, which could include a lawsuit. “The process isn’t working,” she said. “The safeguards we were told to expect are not taking place.” Tuesday night, a spokesman for Penn described the next steps in the process, from the company’s standpoint. “We’re grateful for the overwhelming support expressed today for expanded gaming at Plainridge Race Course. We’re excited to continue to work with the community, and to build upon the great work that has been done thus far here in Plainville. Our next step will be to file our harness racing application on October 1, followed by our formal submission to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission on October 4 for a category two gaming license,’’ Eric Schippers, senior vice president of Penn National Gaming said in a prepared statement. By Ellen Ishkanian (reprinted with permission by www.boston.com)