New Jersey legislature signs off on purse subsidy extension through 2029

Matt Hegarty, Daily Racing Form

The New Jersey Senate on Monday joined the state’s Assembly in overwhelmingly passing a bill extending $10 million in annual Thoroughbred purse subsidies through 2029, according to legislative records.

The subsidies will sustain a critical lifeline to horsemen at Monmouth Park in a state where racetracks do not receive subsidies from casino gambling. Last year, Monmouth distributed $31 million in purses over 56 live racing days, for an average of $553,000 a day, the highest in its history, with one-third of that money coming from the subsidy.

“It helps the track and the horsemen to know that we are going to continue to keep offering our purses, and it really helps the breeders to know that they can count on that purse money being there in the future when their foals are hitting the ground,” said Dennis Drazin, the chief executive officer of the company that runs Monmouth on behalf of the state’s horsemen, under a lease with the state. “And it allows us to keep up the excitement and enthusiasm we’ve had for the race meet these past few years.”

An earlier bill passed provided the subsidy through the 2023 racing season, and the state’s current budget includes the subsidies for 2024. The extension will grant the subsidies to Monmouth from 2025-29.

The bill also grants $10 million in annual purse subsidies to the Standardbred industry through 2029, split among the Meadowlands, Freehold, and the state’s various Standardbred breeding incentive funds.

The bill requires Monmouth, which is run by a group controlled by the state’s horsemen, to provide an annual report to the legislature “on the uses of funds appropriated in the preceding year.”

Average daily handle at Monmouth Park has risen for the past three years – including a robust 11.4 percent jump in 2023 – in part because the track has pared dates from its live racing schedule, a decision that has frustrated some year-round New Jersey horsemen. The track runs from late spring until early fall.

Drazin said on Tuesday that the track plans to run 51 days at Monmouth Park this year, from May 11 to Sept. 15, and horsemen will continue to schedule another 10 days at the Meadowlands for an all-turf meet. In 2023, five of those dates at the Meadowlands were rained out.

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