Monmouth Park

Thoroughbreds break from the gate on the opening day of horse racing at Monmouth Park Racetrack in May 2010.

Associated Press/Equi-Photo photo by Bill Denver

Two private operators have committed to run the state’s two largest racetracks next year without any purse subsidies from casino revenue in a deal announced Thursday night by Gov. Chris Christie.

Christie said in a statement that long-running negotiations with two private operators had been resolved, clearing the way for racing to begin this calendar year at Meadowlands and Monmouth Park racetracks.

For close to a year, Christie has maintained that he would end a current three-year arrangement in which casinos have sent $30 million a year to fund winners’ purses at the racetracks.

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Under deals agreed to in principle, a Christie spokesman said in a written statement that Jeff Gural, a New York investor and developer, and Morris Bailey, co-owner of Resorts Casino, had separately pledged to run the Meadowlands and Monmouth Park tracks and shoulder all costs.

Gural plans to invest $90 million to build a new grandstand at the Meadowlands and develop an off-track wagering facility in Bayonne.

In addition to Monmouth Park, Bailey will take over operation of the off-track wagering facility in Woodbridge and work with Gural to develop additional off-track wagering facilities.

In April, the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority selected Bailey as the winning bidder of a Request for Proposals for the lease of Monmouth Park.

Horsemen’s groups had hoped to see a $15 million subsidy sent from casino revenue to purses this year. The $15 million was offered as part of a Democrat-brokered compromise to get northern New Jersey legislators to support key legislation to revive Atlantic City.

However, Christie made clear even as that legislation was brokered in late 2010 that he would block any new subsidy.

He followed recommendations made last June by Jon Hanson, his key advisor on gaming and racing policy, that horse racing should be forced to become self-sustaining.

The agreement comes after hours of talks reported at the state house in Trenton — an agreement Christie was happy to finalize.

“There are many beneficiaries,” Christie said in the statement. “We’re saving a New Jersey tradition with the continuation of live horse racing at the Meadowlands and Monmouth Park; we are saving and creating jobs; and we are helping to preserve New Jersey farmland and a way of life for many people, from horse farm owners and employees, to jockeys to racing enthusiasts.”

Christie said Thursday night that the private operators will assume control of the tracks June 1.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Contact Juliet Fletcher:

609-292-4935

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