(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assemblymen John Burzichelli, Ralph Caputo and Eric Houghtaling to allow wagering at the annual Far Hills race meeting in Somerset County was approved earlier this week by the General Assembly.
The bill (A-1697) would allow a running race permit holder in good standing with the state to coordinate with the Far Hills Race Meeting Association to allow wagering on the races.
“This should benefit both the horse racing industry and the viewing public,” said Burzichelli (D-Gloucester/Salem/Cumberland), who has sponsored numerous bills to modernize and boost New Jersey’s horse racing industry. “The Far Hills race meeting is a celebrated series of steeplechase horse races that traditionally has been very popular, but wagering is not permitted on the races. This is clearly out-of-place with modern horse racing. At this point, this bill is common sense.”
“Steeplechase horse races are just one of the many wonderful experiences rooted in history that residents and visitors can enjoy in the Garden State,” said Caputo (D-Essex). “Anything we can do to keep and build interest in horse racing in New Jersey and tourism in general is worth looking into. With this bill, we’re at least opening the door to this sensible discussion.”
“These races have been taking place for almost 100 years. Not only is a time-honored Jersey tradition, it supports a wonderful cause,” said Houghtaling (D-Monmouth). “Allowing wagering would bring it up to par with current horse racing, and help further promote an event that is not only entertaining, but helps raise funds for The Steeplechase Cancer Center’s fight against cancer.”
The bill authorizes the New Jersey Racing Commission to grant a special permit, to a permit holder in good standing authorized to conduct running races in this state, for the holding or conducting of a special steeplechase race meeting at a location other than an official racetrack.
The permit holder must conduct the special race meeting in conjunction with an organization that has experience conducting steeplechase races pursuant to state law, and the race meeting must be recognized by the National Steeplechase and Hunt Association.
A special permit granted pursuant to this bill would be subject to the jurisdiction of the commission.
The commission would be allowed to grant only one special permit per calendar year, which would be valid only for the calendar year in which it is issued.
Any running race permit holder in good standing may apply for the special permit.
The number of racing days authorized pursuant to the special permit would not be permitted to exceed two days in a calendar year.
Any racing day that is run pursuant to the special permit would count toward the total number of racing days allotted to the running race permit holder.
A permit holder that is granted a special permit under the bill would be required to maintain separate books and records, and file reports and audits, for the special steeplechase race meeting to the same extent a permit holder is required to do so by law.
Sums in the pari-mutuel pools that result from wagering on races at the special steeplechase race meeting would be distributed as if the special steeplechase race meeting is held at the location for which the special permit holder holds a running race permit. However, the special permit holder would be able to enter into a contractual agreement with the organization with which the permit holder is conducting the special race meeting providing for the distribution of money that would otherwise statutorily be distributed to the permit holder.
The bill would also allow simulcasting of the race to in-state and out-of-state facilities.
Lastly, prior to granting a special permit, the commission would be required to provide written notice to the governing body of the municipality where the special race meeting is being held. The governing body may object to the issuance of the special permit by passing a resolution within 30 days of receipt of the notice and by transmitting a copy of the resolution to the commission, in which case the special permit would not be issued. If the governing body does not object by passing a resolution within the required timeframe, the commission may grant the special permit.
The bill was approved 79-0 and now awaits further consideration by the Senate.