04/14/2009 12:00AM

Meet opens wide this time around


Atlantic City Race Course is no longer running in the dark.

For the first time in 10 years, the signal from Atlantic City's short all-turf meet will be broadcast to simulcast locations across the country when the track opens for live racing on Thursday. The opening-day card is the first of six cards spread out over the next three weeks.

Maureen Gallagher-Bugdon, the track's general manager, said Tuesday that the list of simulcast locations is not yet complete, but that the track's signal would be available "nationwide," though the races will not be available on major account-wagering platforms.

Owned by Greenwood Racing, Atlantic City Race Course continues to hold a short race meet every year because of state rules requiring racetracks to host live race days in order to remain open year-round as simulcasting facilities. The track's owners are also hoping that politicians in the state will drop their opposition to expanding casino-type gambling at racetracks.

New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine has formed a task force to study issues surrounding racing in the state, with the obvious subtext of determining whether the state should expand slot machines beyond the politically powerful casinos in Atlantic City. Atlantic City Race Course does not have a seat on the task force, although the racing industry is represented by the state-owned tracks of the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority.

Atlantic City will run live this year every Thursday and Friday for three consecutive weeks, ending May 1, the day before the Kentucky Derby. First post will be 3:30 p.m. every day.

According to the New Jersey Racing Commission, the total handle for six racing days last year was $807,932, a figure that will likely be exceeded this year with betting available at places other than the racetrack itself.

Gallagher-Bugdon said that she expects the track's signal to attract a large amount of interest in the out-of-state market, considering the races are all run on turf and have typically drawn large fields. The opening-day seven-race card, for example, has 71 entries for the seven races, and Friday's card has 72 entries for six races.

"We have the highest average fields in the country, and we believe we'll remain there this year," she said. "We're in the live racing business, and we expect that to continue."