By Desirée Taylor
Today marked the grand opening of Winners Bayonne. The $18 million project is the first off-track wagering facility to be built and operated by New York developer Jeff Gural. The 25,000 square foot facility is branded as a sports bar but many of the amenities cater to horse racing fans. They can place bets and watch races on two large simulcast screens. There are also 150 televisions, a VIP room and a 38-seat bar and full service restaurant operated by McLoone’s.
The facility sits on what use to be a vacant lot in Bayonne. The NJ Sports and Exposition Authority selected the site because of the large player database of horse players in the Staten Island market and the robust lottery sales in the area.
“We’re truly excited, aside from the economic benefits, taxes, over $200,000 in rateables taxes and job creation,” said Bayonne Mayor Mark Smith. The project created 100 jobs and 90 percent of the McLoone’s Bayonne Grille staff is comprised of local residents.
Gural, who took over the Meadowlands Racetrack from the state back in December, has a lot riding on the success of this facility. It’s one part of his larger effort to revive the sport of horse racing which has struggled in New Jersey, partly because of increased competition from neighboring states.
“It’s still a struggle because surrounding states that we compete with all get huge subsidies from the slot machines and gambling,” said Gural. “We’re trying to survive without that and for the moment we’re doing OK but it’s not easy.”