Oceanport Councilman Joe Irace’s remarks to the Assembly Regulartory Oversight and Gaming Committee, July 19, 2012
Chairman Ramos, and members of the Assembly Regulatory Oversight and Gaming Committee, thank you for inviting me to speak before you today on this
important topic. I am Oceanport Councilman Joseph Irace.
When the State of New Jersey voted to allow casino gambling in Atlantic City in 1976, it marked the dawn of an era wherein, for close to a decade and a half, New Jersey had a de facto monopoly on casino gambling on the East Coast. That era ended in 1992 with the advent of Foxwoods Resort Casino. In the years since then, we have seen a steady encroachment upon Atlantic City’s position as the premier East Coast destination for casino type gambling. New York, Connecticut, Delaware, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Maryland now offer substantial gaming options to the general public. Indeed, as of April of 2012, Pennsylvania’s gaming industry was second only to that of Las Vegas. Quite clearly, the landscape has changed immeasurably since 1976 and New Jersey’s stranglehold on the East Coast gaming industry is no more. This isn’t an Atlantic City gaming industry problem, it is a New Jersey business development and retention problem.
Similarly, three decades ago, the State of New Jersey was a pre-eminent player in the horseracing industry. The Meadowlands, Freehold Raceway, Monmouth Park, Atlantic City Race Course and Garden State Park — the latter three called the “Golden Triangle” of New Jersey racing — all offered top notch, stakes level horse racing at quality venues. As we are all aware, the New Jersey horseracing industry has suffered setbacks over the past few decades and the root of these setbacks can be traced to the same source as that which has negatively impacted on Atlantic City. New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware and West Virginia have all committed to the Racino business model and this has placed the State of New Jersey’s horseracing industry at a decided disadvantage. Again, this isn’t a horseracing industry problem, it is a New Jersey business development and retention problem.
For far too long now, New Jersey’s gaming industry and New Jersey’s horse racing industry circled each other warily as opponents. It is high time that they stop viewing each other as competitors and start viewing themselves as comrades at arms with a singular purpose: melding both industries in such a fashion that New Jersey once again becomes the East Coast’s premier gaming AND horse racing destination. Based on the revenues generated by Racinos in the surrounding states and across the nation, the question of whether or not these two industries can co-exist, and indeed THRIVE, is no longer arguable. Quite simply, if New Jersey’s gaming and horse-racing industries fail to embrace this new business model, both will perish and the State of New Jersey will be lesser for it.
Our elected officials and both industries need to stop thinking parochially and start thinking globally. The infrastructure, manpower and talent are already in place. We just need the desire and commitment to get this done, and get it done sooner rather than later. The State of New Jersey has waited long enough to get its act together. The states that have already embraced the Racino business model have demonstrated that what is good for the horseracing industry is good for the gaming industry and vice versa. More importantly, what’s good for those industries is also good for all of New Jersey.
I implore our legislators to make every effort to convince these two parties that it is imperative that they stop competing with each other and start complementing each other in order to re-capture the hearts, minds and loyalty of their consumers. If the gaming and horse racing industries fail to adapt to the new paradigm, neither will survive. And that won’t be a gaming or horse racing problem — that will be a tragedy for the State of New Jersey.