04/27/2011 2:57PM

Meadowlands and mutuel tellers' union reach deal, reports say

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The executive board of the union that represents mutuel tellers at the Meadowlands racetrack in New Jersey voted on Tuesday to accept a deal proposed by a potential leaseholder of the track, in a decision that could pave the way to the track resuming live racing within the next two weeks if several other agreements are also struck, according to New Jersey newspapers.

The executive board took the vote 12 days after a negotiating committee of the union refused to vote on an offer made by the potential leaseholder that would have reduced pay for the tellers and demanded other concessions. According to the Bergen County Record, the executive board's decision to accept the offer does not need ratification by the union's full membership.

The potential leaseholder, the New York real estate developer Jeff Gural, was picked by state officials late in 2010 to negotiate a private lease of the state-held track.

Negotiations have been bogged down by Gural's insistence that all workers at the track, including unionized employees and management, accept 20 percent pay cuts.

The agreement with the tellers' union was considered one of the largest stumbling blocks toward closing negotiations on the lease. Gural still needs agreements with Standardbred horsemen over the divisions of simulcasting revenue that would go to purses, and also with unions representing parking lot attendants and the building trades, according to the Record.

Gural has proposed building a new $70 million grandstand at the track, and he has said that he wants the live harness racing schedule to be reduced to approximately 80 days, down from 200 days. The track has been awarded live dates that include a May 7 opening.

Both the Meadowlands and its sister track, Monmouth Park, were put up for lease at the direction of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who contended that taxpayers were subsidizing the operations of the tracks. Earlier in April, the New York real estate developer and New Jersey horse breeder Morris Bailey was selected among two other bidders for the Monmouth lease. Negotiations on the Monmouth lease are ongoing.

Though the Meadowlands has run lengthy fall Thoroughbred meets in the past, the track is not likely to host a substantial number of Thoroughbred race dates this year or in the near future. Thoroughbred horsemen, however, have proposed a short meet at the track in 2011, perhaps lasting one week, a possibility that could introduce disputes over shares of the track's simulcasting revenue between the breeds.

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