06/01/2011 2:13PM

Monmouth Park lease agreement close but not done deal

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Negotiations over a lease of Monmouth Park in New Jersey remained open on Wednesday, a state-imposed deadline, but the lack of an agreement is not expected to impact the track’s current race meet in any way, according to Morris Bailey, the New Jersey horseman and real estate developer who is seeking to lease the track from the state for the next five years.

Bailey said on Wednesday that multi-party talks were ongoing among himself, representatives of the state, officials of the New Jersey’s Thoroughbred and Standardbred horsemen, and a New York real estate developer, Jeff Gural, who has been tabbed to lease the state’s harness track, the Meadowlands.

“It looks like we’re finally getting to the point where we’re close to signing a memorandum of understanding,” Bailey said. “It will probably be relatively quick from there.”

Outstanding issues on the lease include the division of revenues from simulcasting at both Monmouth and the Meadowlands that will accrue to both Standardbred and Thoroughbred horsemen. In addition, Bailey said that he is seeking a partnership agreement with Gural over management of offtrack betting parlors that the two are expected to open if the lease negotiations are successful.

Monmouth Park opened its live race meet in mid-May. The track is technically still under the management control of the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, the state agency that owns the track and the Meadowlands. Earlier this year, Gov. Chris Christie said that he wanted the negotiations over the leases of the two tracks completed by June 1, but Bailey said that all parties involved in the discussions have acknowledged that the passing of the deadline would not alter the negotiations.

Under the lease, Bailey would be able to operate Monmouth for five years, and would receive the right to operate five offtrack betting parlors, only one of which is already assigned to an existing parlor. The current negotiations provide for 71 live racing dates at Monmouth each year, with a commitment to an average daily purse distribution of $400,000.