Democratic state legislators will hold the second in a series of three gaming summits Sept. 10 at the Meadowlands sports complex in East Rutherford, Bergen County.

Sen. Jim Whelan, D-Atlantic, confirmed Friday that the next summit session would focus not only on casino gaming but also on horse racing. Advisers to Gov. Chris Christie have called for the state to stop subsidizing racetracks.

The Meadowlands session was widely anticipated, after leading Democrats from the state Senate and Assembly held their first session to consider changes to state gambling policies in Atlantic City on Aug. 6.

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The series of panel discussions has provoked critics who accused the Democrats of holding partisan brainstorming sessions outside the format of legislative committees. No Republicans were invited to attend.

However, business owners involved in horse racing and the fans who attend live racing at the state's four tracks have supported the efforts.

Whelan said a list of speakers is being finalized. Organizers did not say whether Republican lawmakers from horse-industry areas of the state, including Sen. Jennifer Beck, R-Monmouth, would this time receive invitations.

When Gov. Chris Christie announced he would follow a series of recommendations put forward by an advisory commission led by Jon Hanson, horse racing advocates were caught off guard by his intention to pull state financial support from racing. He also proposed state involvement in running Atlantic City's entertainment and casino districts, and finding buyers or management for many of the state-owned stadiums and entertainment complexes.

Racing supporters wearing "Save the Meadowlands" shirts swarmed the first gaming summit panel at the Atlantic City Convention Center, jeering legislators who suggested reducing state racing subsidies or race dates.

The horse-racing industry regards slots-style gaming as a possible revenue stream at the tracks. Representatives have repeatedly suggested putting video-lottery terminals, a form of slot machines, at the racetracks.

Casinos countered that scenario by paying a $30 million-a-year subsidy for three years to racetrack prize purses in exchange for state and racetrack officials not seeking VLTs for the tracks.

Contact Juliet Fletcher:

609-292-4935

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