03/21/2016 2:53PM

Bergman: Hear what you want, disregard the rest

Michael Lisa
Jeff Gural partnered with Hard Rock with the hopes of having a casino at the Meadowlands, but any venture would need to include an Atlantic City partner.

Paul Simon captured the misguided dreams of many in “The Boxer” and ironically those words ring as true today as they did some 45 years hence.

All lies and jests. Still, a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest.”

Last week some managed to edit the words spoken in the media and elsewhere and fit in the words they wanted to hear.

Casinos are coming to North Jersey?

The headlines without the attachments are all too familiar in today’s society and the loss of columns of substance or the desire to look into the matter further has left our society to simply believe the “Lies and Jests” and move on.

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Whether casinos come to North Jersey or not is a major and complicated matter with too much detail and likely intrigue to be summarized in a short headline or 140 characters or less.

Politics is the art of telling people what they want to hear.

That the Meadowlands is the favorite in the early line to receive a casino should the voters pass an amendment in November may be precisely true as we speak today, but what will the line look like after the vote?

The odds appear to be in the favor of the Meadowlands, with its perfect proximity to New York City and its easy access, but if you are placing a bet on the future, there are many more factors in the way that may not play to the Meadowlands’ advantage.

Will the NFL, the same league that forced Yonkers Raceway’s ownership to sever its ties upon the arrival of the Empire City Casino, at the time not wishing to have conflicts between casinos and football, have a problem sharing the grounds of a casino?

Today, the NFL’s New York Giants and New York Jets don’t have to respond to those questions, but will they become more vocal if it becomes a more imminent threat?

The legislation behind the amendment appears to give current Atlantic City casino owners the first rights to pursue potential casinos in North Jersey. While any one casino may in fact choose to partner with Jeff Gural and his Meadowlands proposal, would the Atlantic City entity wish to partner with the Hard Rock as well?

If the amendment passes, will any other proposals surface with ties to existing Atlantic City casino properties? There has been a long and detailed fight to keep Atlantic City afloat and companies already vested in the town may be in search of partnerships that afford them the best possible percentages to offset projected losses.

Unlike past fights in various states to bring casinos to racetracks, the North New Jersey proposal has more to do with breaking up an existing monopoly. Thankfully the horsemen have not been totally left out of the loop and even if a casino doesn’t come to the Meadowlands, there is language that allows purses for horse racing to be drawn from the other locations.

Ideally a casino at The Meadowlands would be in the best interest of our industry and the horsemen, however, now would be the best time for Jeff Gural and the horsemen to square their position on a very critical matter.

According to Gural, the horsemen are currently overpaid to the extent of $4.2 million dollars in purses. He suggests that by the end of this year that overpayment will reach a staggering $6 million.

What’s extremely troubling about this number is that it came about essentially without the horsemen making a decision.

According to Gural, the overpayment came as a combination of things. “The money from the state dropped and we did not realize that was going to happen until we got the check,” said Gural via email. “We made some miscalculations and intentionally kept the stakes going.

“If I get a casino, I could get it back over time and if there is no casino, we just drop all the stakes and get it back that way,” Gural said.

So if a casino comes, Gural says he will find a way to resolve the overpayment issue, but if it doesn’t then the horsemen must suffer for an enormous miscalculation that they didn’t make?

What’s of greater concern in the immediate moment is that another $1.8 million will be overspent in this calendar year. Much of that has to do with something that Gural essentially insisted upon. Despite his recent claim that he wanted the Breeders Crown to be held at the Meadowlands in 2016 because it would coincide with the amendment vote, that really doesn’t hold water because initially it was hoped that the amendment would be on the 2015 ballot.

Let us try to avoid hearing what we want to hear while disregarding the rest.

Perhaps as we go forward in this election season, a better partnership can be forged with the Meadowlands and its horsemen so that all can get behind a critical ballot issue and hopefully a positive vote. A good first step would be to find a more viable answer to this overpayment issue. The idea that when racetracks make errors to the tune of $6 million there are no consequences but when horsemen make mistakes they could be banned forever, just doesn’t sit very well.

It’s one thing to sing effusively about $3 million nightly handles (a man hears what he wants to hear) while at the same time disregarding a potential $6 million nightmare that hangs over the track and the horsemen.

Perhaps the horsemen’s verse from “The Boxer” would aptly read:

I am just a poor boy.
Though my story's seldom told,
I have squandered my resistance
For a pocketful of mumbles,
Such are promises

There’s still time for better harmony.