Monmouth Park Racetrack is off and running but operating now under the management of the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association (NJTHA).
According to Dennis Drazin, NJTHA Advisor, the time had come to privatize the racetrack. “The horsemen stepped up to the plate and they feel very good about the fact that now they control their own destiny,” said Drazin. “There’s no uncertainty anymore. The horsemen can make this work, we have the vision, we have the where with all, so the state’s out the business and were in charge.”
Horse owner Cathy Nicola says that horse racing is critical to the economy of New Jersey, not just in Monmouth Park, citing the farm, hay, and agricultural business.
The NJTHA signed a five-year lease to run the facility, with options for three 10-year extensions. With the exception of 4 new video boards and a different catering company, there aren’t many apparent changes to the park but the new management has big plans for the future including a miniature golf course, a casino, a year-round concert venue, water theme park, and a hotel.
Drazin said the NJTHA has plans to make Monmouth Park a destination resort, saying “we don’t want to just rely upon racing, we want to rely on other revenues.”
As for competition from the racinos in New York and Pennsylvania, Drazin says creating more off-track wagering facilities, like the one they now operate in Woodbridge, will give the Garden State the edge it needs.
“The game plan is doing what the state should have done a long time ago. And I’m not trying to be critical, I’m just trying to say people didn’t do their job. So in 2004, we passed legislation to put off-track wagering facilities throughout the state. There were supposed to be 15 of them. Had we built those, we’d be competitive with the other states but we didn’t.”
The Monmouth Park racing season will run through October 7, and the track is adding twilight racing on the last four Thursdays in August this year. The average race purse in 2011 was over $423,000. They expect similar purses this year. Locally, Oceanport councilman Joseph Irace says the racetrack is the borough’s largest employer generating 1,600 jobs. The councilman added that it was also the county’s largest taxpayer paying about 28 percent of the municipal taxes per year.
Last year, nearly 530,000 people visited Monmouth Park Racetrack, the lowest attendance in years. The new management says their goal is to not only make the necessary changes to enhance the experience here at the track, but also to enhance the simulcast experience. They say they’re aware of the competition from nearby states and they want to be number one.