Horse racing is a vital component of New Jersey’s economy

Despite the invigorated summer meet at Monmouth Park and having two premier horse racing meets held in New Jersey, supporters of the casino industry believe that horse racing should not be subsidized to promote and modernize the sport. These same casino industry supporters would lead you to believe that Atlantic City does not receive any subsidies or preferential treatment; however, that is not the case, and to focus solely on horse racing is hypocritical.

The casino gambling industry gets huge subsidies from the state:

According to the nonpartisan Office of Legislative Services in Trenton, from 2004 to 2009 the state let the tax on casino complimentary hotel rooms gradually lapse. These are the hotel rooms that are provided to high rollers.

Hotels in locations outside of Atlantic City pay a per-room tax every time a patron occupies a hotel room. But no tax is required for complimentary rooms in Atlantic City. In effect, this is a subsidy of $26 million per year for the Atlantic City casino industry.

Additionally, the casino industry receives a tax break on the value of promotional gaming credits issued to patrons for the purpose of placing a wager at a slot machine. Essentially, this enables casino operators to give free slot tokens to gamblers tax-free. That tax break netted the casinos approximately $20 million in 2009.

The gaming industry is changing, and hedging our bets on Atlantic City alone puts New Jersey at a competitive disadvantage.

To position the state to maximize all gaming revenue and employment opportunities, we should not close the door on horse racing. Our neighboring state, Pennsylvania, saw increased tax revenues in 2009 because of their racinos.

Racinos combine horse wagering and other types of gaming. All of New Jersey’s neighboring states either have or will have racinos up and running in the very near future.

According to the American Gaming Association, the racino sector continued to grow in 2009. Nationally, consumer spending at racinos increased to $6.4 billion in a deep recession. If this sector of gaming is doing so well in other states, why would we ignore it in New Jersey?

As is, the horse racing industry does contribute to the state’s economy. According to the Rutgers Equine Science Center, New Jersey’s horse racing industry is valued at $3.2 billion, produces a direct $698 million impact on the state economy, and directly employs more than 6,000 persons. In short, it is in the best financial interest of the state to protect this industry.

If we want to increase and maximize New Jersey’s gaming industry, we must invest in racinos. As shown in Pennsylvania and numerous other states, the future of profitable horse racing is a combination of horse racing and casinos. New Jersey needs to be on the cutting edge of entertainment and the gaming industry if we want to compete for those valuable consumer dollars.

Sean Kean State Senator, 11th District

Wall Township