BUSINESS & ECONOMY

Meadowlands Racetrack Chair Says On-Site Casino is ‘Inevitable,’ Touts Winners Bayonne

Winners Bayonne, an off-track betting (OTB) facility, opened today with the New Meadowlands Racetrack Chairman Jeff Gural in attendance. Gural spoke with NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider about the new facility and changes coming to the Meadowlands. Gural also said he believes a casino at the Meadowlands is inevitable and that it wouldn’t compete with Atlantic City.

Gural said the Meadowlands has been successful in drawing people back to the track. To make the facility even more customer friendly, Gural said the Meadowlands will be getting a new grandstand that will be downsized to fit the audience and geared more toward younger people.

“We’re replacing it with a new grandstand on the opposite side of the racetrack. And then it would be the state’s obligation to do whatever they want to do. They have a contractual obligation to use that building for the Super Bowl in 2014. So we’ll be out of there by then,” Gural said. “And then what happens after that, I have no idea what they’re going to do.”

The Meadowlands does more business than any other racetrack in the country when it comes to simulcasting, which refers to betting on signals coming from other tracks, according to Gural. He explained that the facility is able to make more money off simulcast betting than the races happening on the track.

“When somebody sends us their signal, we’re typically only paying them 3 percent of the signal so if the takeout is 20 percent, which is kind of normal, we get 17 percent which we split with the horsemen. So the money you make on the input is good because you’re not running the races,” Gural said. “When you’re running the races, it’s more expensive. You have to provide the purses and the horses and the starting gate and all of that stuff.”

Gural called Winners Bayonne “gorgeous” and hopes customers respond positively to the facility. Along with the option to bet on horse races, there is a separate area that includes a sports bar called McLoone’s Bayonne Grille. “So there’s a separate section if you want to just come and watch football or baseball or the NCAA and have a good meal,” he said.

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Winners Bayonne is in a good location, according to Gural, who predicts some customers will come from Staten Island since off-track betting was removed from there. He also expects people from Bayonne and Jersey City will frequent Winners Bayonne. “It’s an experiment but I’m hoping that it’s successful,” he said.

Some have suggested allowing a casino at the Meadowlands, which Gural said is inevitable. “I would be lying if I didn’t think that one of my motivations for doing this was that I think there will be casino gambling at some point,” he said.

Gov. Chris Christie has said he wants to give Atlantic City a chance to improve its business and Gural said $30 million that used to go to the Meadowlands was given to Atlantic City for its marketing campaign. But he said he would be ready to put a gambling area at the Meadowlands.

“It would be designed where if we were fortunate enough to get a casino license, we could build right behind it — a casino or slots facility,” he said.

Gural said he would partner with an existing gaming company for the casino, which wouldn’t compete with Atlantic City since that area is a resort. “I’m trying to get the customers that New Jersey is losing now that are driving over the George Washington Bridge to go to Yonkers and Aqueduct or driving out Route 78 to go to Bethlehem,” he said.

Because Atlantic City is a resort area, it pays a low tax. Gural said if a casino were allowed at the Meadowlands, it would likely generate more tax revenue than all the other casinos combined.

“We’re not competing with Atlantic City,” Gural said. “They’re a resort and we would just build a destination casino.”