Friday, April 18, 2008
‘Horse racing equals open space’
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
April 16, 2008
Save the Horse Committee meets, outlines goals
Panel lends support to bill endorsing video lottery terminals at racetracks
FREEHOLD – If something isn’t done soon to help New Jersey’s ailing horse racing industry, the impact will be felt in an eventual decline of the quality of life in Monmouth County and the rest of New Jersey when horse farms close and breeders move their operations elsewhere.
“We are fast approaching the critical point where once we begin losing horse farms there will be no turning it around,” said Freeholder Director Lillian G. Burry, who created a “blue ribbon” panel to lobby the governor and Legislature to enact measures that would help the industry. “The quality of life in New Jersey is the most important contribution the horse industry makes – in every county.”
The “Save the Horse Committee,” formed by Freeholder Burry and comprising a variety of stakeholders, held its first meeting recently and dedicated itself to lobbying state officials to make them understand the value the horse and, particularly, the horseracing industry brings to the state’s economy.
According to a 2007 report by Rutgers University, the economic impact of New Jersey’s horse industry is $1.1 billion a year. Some 13,000 jobs are created by equine operations and racetracks, and an estimated $160 million is generated annually in federal, state and local taxes.
“The exodus of horses and breeders will continue until the state changes its attitude and establishes a long-term solution to make the racetracks of New Jersey self-sufficient and lucrative for our horsemen,” said Nancy Grbelja, chairwoman of the newly formed committee.
One of the chief concerns among committee members is that left unchanged, the lack of support for horse racing will lead to a decline in the quality of life when horse farms and horses begin disappearing from the New Jersey landscape as breeders move their operations to other states.
There are 176,000 acres utilized by equine operations in New Jersey – 96,000 of these acres are directly related to horse activities, and 78,000 acres are devoted to pasture and hay production, according to the Rutgers report. Another 46,000 acres in New Jersey produce hay and grain for horses. In total, the equine-related acres represent about one-fifth of the state’s 790,000 acres in agriculture.
“Agricultural and horse farms will turn into housing developments if we let the horse industry slip away,” Grbelja said. “We must make our representatives in Trenton understand so they can take the necessary action to preserve what we have. Once we lose a horse farm, we can never get it back.”
The biggest threat to the state’s horse industry comes from neighboring states such as New York and Pennsylvania, where racetracks have slot machines that are drawing gambling dollars away from New Jersey, said Jerold L. Zaro, a Save the Horse Committee member who is also a commissioner of the New Jersey Sports & Exhibition Authority.
Zaro points to the Atlantic City casinos, which he said have lobbied hard against any attempts to allow slot machines and video lottery terminals (VLTs) at racetracks. At the same time, they have invested in slot machines at racetracks in these neighboring states. Two of New Jersey’s racetracks are located in Monmouth County: Freehold Raceway and Monmouth Park in Oceanport.
“Casinos are being subsidized here in New Jersey because in they are allowed to pay just 9.2 percent in taxes whereas casinos in other states pay as much as 50 percent, ” Zaro said. “They refuse to allow other forms of gambling at New Jersey racetracks, such as slot machines or VLTs, yet they invest in facilities they own out of state, luring gambling money away from New Jersey.”
In New Jersey, “horse racing equals open space,” Zaro added.
The “Save the Horse Committee” has endorsed S-1481, a bill by Sen. Sean T. Kean, R-Monmouth, that would allow racetracks to install video lottery terminals.
The next meeting of the “Save the Horse Committee” is scheduled for 1 p.m. May 9 in the second-floor conference room at the Monmouth County Hall of Records, Freehold.
The members of the “Save the Horse Committee” are as follows: Lillian G. Burry, Colts Neck, Monmouth County Freeholder director; Nancy Grebelja, Millstone, currently serving as Mayor of Millstone; Stephen Dey, Upper Freehold, veterinarian, Board of Directors of the Horse Park of New Jersey; Tom Luchento, Freehold Township, president of Standard Bred Breeders and Owners Association; John Ryan, Colts Neck, thoroughbred breeder; Pat Butch, Millstone, standardbred breeder; Joe Jennings, Allentown, thoroughbred breeder; Karen Jennings, Allentown, thoroughbred breeder; George Richdale Sr., Colts Neck, organizer of the Monmouth County Horse Show; Jerold Zaro, commissioner, New Jersey Sports & Exhibition Authority; Judith Stanley, Middletown, executive director, Monmouth Conservation Foundation; and Bea Duffy, director, Monmouth County Department of Economic Development