Meadowlands Operator: Casinos Are Keeping Horse Racing Alive

The last day Atlantic City Race Course will be open is Friday. The closing has been blamed on a declining horse racing industry and a sluggish economy. Jeff Gural, who operates the Meadowlands Racetrack as well as Tioga Downs in New York, told NJTV News Anchor Mary Alice Williams that he wasn’t surprised that Atlantic City Race Course is closing.

According to Gural, horse racing hasn’t been able to appeal to young people. “Frankly there’s so many other things for people to do today that racing other than the big events like the Derby and Triple Crown and harness racing at the Hambletonian, by and large it just doesn’t appeal to younger people,” he said.

Gural said casinos are keeping horse racing alive since most racetracks have a casino component. He said tracks in Pennsylvania and New York have slot machines, which helps the racetracks.

Gural would like to have a racino — a combination racetrack and casino — in the Meadowlands. “I think what it really will help is we just built a $120 million building and it’s a cool place, but people need various options,” he said. He said a racino would let people in the same party participate in different activities, for example a husband who likes to watch races could do that while his wife who likes slot machines can gamble that way.

“Plus purses are subsidized by the casino revenue. So the biggest problem I have at the Meadowlands, frankly, is the fact that because New York and Pennsylvania are getting hundreds of millions of dollars that we can’t compete for horses, so that’s a real struggle,” Gural said.

According to Gural, the closing of Atlantic City Race Course won’t impact operations at the Meadowlands.

While Gural operates Tioga Downs in New York, he’s also looking to get another New York license. He’s optimistic that he will be chosen. “There aren’t a lot of people up there so hopefully nobody bids against me. That’s really probably the best. The best hope I have is not to have somebody bid against me,” he said. “But in fairness, it’s a competitive environment. But I think we can convert pretty quickly.”

New Jersey is currently in a legal battle to legalize sports betting. While Gural thinks it will eventually be legalized in the Garden State, he said the current approach is a long shot.

“I think it’s just a matter of time. Everybody realizes that. You take the NFL for example, no one’s watching the NFL if they’re not betting on it so hopefully, they’re the biggest opponent of it and they really are kind of hypocritical it seems because you look at the TV shows before the games, they all talk about the line and everything,” Gural.

Related: Atlantic City Race Course to Close Friday