04/04/2011 3:57PM

Monmouth bidding attracts three

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Three bidders, including longtime New Jersey horse owner Morris Bailey, have met a deadline to submit proposals to lease Monmouth Park from the state for the next five years, according to New Jersey officials.

The bids were due March 31. In addition to Bailey, the other parties responding to the state’s request for proposals were John Brunetti, the owner of Hialeah Park in Florida and a native of New Jersey, and the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, according to several officials who confirmed an account in the Star-Ledger this weekend.

A winning bidder is expected to be announced by April 14, when the board of directors of Monmouth’s owner, the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, is scheduled to meet, according to the officials. The selection of a winning bidder could happen by the end of the week, the officials said.

John Samerjan, a spokesman for the sports authority, declined to identify the bidders. However, Samerjan said that the authority expects to take quick action on the evaluation of the proposals so that the state can conduct negotiations on the lease before the scheduled opening of Monmouth’s meet on May 14.

Eight parties had initially expressed interest in responding to the state’s request for proposals, which will allow the lease-holder to operate Monmouth Park for five years. Notable parties that did not respond by the Thursday deadline include Betfair, the British-based betting-exchange operator that owns Television Games Network; a company headed by Frank Stronach; and the owners of Philadelphia Park.

Any selection of a lease-holder will need to be approved by Gov. Chris Christie. Representatives of Christie’s office did not return phone calls on Monday.

Under the state’s request for proposals, the lease-holder will also be assigned the rights to five offtrack betting parlors in the state, including a highly profitable operation in Woodbridge. The other four OTB licenses are not yet attached to any physical operations. In addition, the lease-holder will receive a 50 percent share in the sports authority’s account-wagering operation.

Monmouth Park has been awarded 141 live racing dates for 2011, but the schedule is expected to be amended once negotiations are complete on a lease-holder.

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