Maybe Chris Christie would like to know that the New Jersey harness racing industry took a huge hit this week at the Harrisburg yearling sales, where buyers were running away from horses bred in the Garden State because they can’t be certain the sport is going to continue there. Did anyone tell him that the “Elite Meet” experiment that was such a success at Monmouth might be scrapped, and that a dreary 141-day meet filled with cheap races and bad racing might take its place?
Then again, would he even care? Sadly, the answer is no. We already know that Christie doesn’t care about the New Jersey racing industry.
But this isn’t going to be a horse racing story. This is about how Gov. Christie doesn’t care about the citizens of New Jersey or the financial well being of the state. How else can you explain away how he has turned his back on not just racing, but the obvious good a casino at the Meadowlands would do for the state?
All states are having problems right now, but Jersey’s are among the worst. I live here. I know.
I pay $13,000 a year in property taxes. That may seem like a lot of money, but those of us who live in Jersey are used to it. We pay the highest property taxes in the country. My two children go to public schools, where class sizes are getting out of hand because there are not enough teachers to go around. That’s because Christie has sliced the state’s budget for education. According to the New Jersey Education Association, the cuts have resulted in 10,000 positions being lost in the state’s public schools through layoffs or the failure to replace personnel that retired at the end of the 2010 school year.
There’s nothing out there that’s going to magically fix all the problems overnight, but putting a casino at the Meadowlands would be a major step in the right direction. Doing so would mean more money for the horse racing game and a healthier industry, more money for the state, more money for the casinos and open up the possibilities of property tax relief and helping the state’s beleaguered schools. Nobody loses here.
But Christie won’t do it. In fact, he seems determined to close down racing in the state. He says what he really wants is to revitalize Atlantic City, which is struggling mightily in the face of competition from casinos in Pennsylvania and other nearby states. None of it makes sense. Not only is Atlantic City about as close to a lost cause as things get, but the best way to help the A.C. casino operators would be to let them share in the hundreds of millions of dollars in profits that could be made by putting a casino at the Meadowlands. Much of that, by the way, is money now flowing out of the state to casinos in Pennsylvania and New York.
Christie thinks he can get away with this because most New Jersey citizens don’t understand the issues. They are being told that this is nothing more than a lot of fussing and whining from the horse racing guys, guys who are wasting their time trying to save a dying sport. Saving horse racing in New Jersey is, of course, important. It provides jobs and green space and can be more than viable if done right.
But what the people of New Jersey don’t understand is that this is a lot bigger than racing. It’s about how Christie has sold out to the Atlantic City casino faction and, in the process, is denying the state millions of dollars in revenue that it desperately needs. I want my property taxes to go down and I want my kids’ schools to hire more teachers, and it can happen if they put in the casino at the Meadowlands.
Atlantic City doesn’t work anymore because there is too much competition out there and an awful lot of New Jersey gambling dollars are going out of state. That’s not going to change, at least for Atlantic City itself. The only way to bolster the gambling business in New Jersey is to expand and to make the slots a lot more convenient to the millions who live in North Jersey.
It’s so apparent that Atlantic City is going nowhere that even the casino operators have given up on a resurgence. According to a report in the Asbury Park Press, Harrah’s has announced that it was going to sell public stock in a bid to raise $575 million, but it made no mention of investing in Atlantic City in its regulatory paperwork that announced the stock issuance. Instead, Harrah’s wants to use the money to build a new casino in Philadelphia, which will only makes things worse for its casino properties in Atlantic City.
Is Christie just blind to what is going on? Most people in New Jersey horse racing circles think it’s far more nefarious than that, that he has formed an alliance with Atlantic City in an attempt to put horse racing in the state out of business so the casinos can come in and have the Meadowlands all to themselves. Never mind that to do so he has to destroy a very important part of the state’s economy in horse racing and play a delaying game with a Meadowlands casino that will cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars.
In the meantime, you can get some very well-bred Jersey runners dirt cheap this week at Harrisburg, which is going to mean that New Jersey breeders and farms are going to have to think about going out of business or moving their operations to Pennsylvania or New York. On the thoroughbred side, the horsemen have been left with no choice but to reserve their right to make the tracks run 141 days in 2011. Without any financial help from the state or any guarantees that the “Elite Meet” concept will return, a lot of racing is the only way horsemen can make any money.
And my exorbitant taxes are due soon.
Originally Posted on ESPN