03/17/2008 11:00PM

New Jersey approves $90M in casino funds to tracks

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Both houses of the New Jersey legislature have overwhelmingly approved legislation that would grant a $90 million three-year subsidy to the state's horse racing industry from Atlantic City casinos.

The legislation, which had been worked out by legislative leaders, Gov. Jon Corzine, and the state's casinos earlier in March, passed in the senate on Monday by a vote of 38-1. The bill had earlier passed the state's assembly by a 76-0 vote.

Under the legislation, New Jersey's casinos will give the state's racing industry $30 million a year for the next three years. In exchange, the racetracks will be prohibited from operating slot machines. In the past four years, casinos have contributed more than $86 million to the state's racing industry.

Robert Kulina, the vice president of racing for the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, said the subsidy will be split "about equally" between Thoroughbreds and Standardbreds in the state. In addition, a portion of the subsidy for each breed will go to breeders' awards, Kulina said.

The Sports and Exposition Authority owns Monmouth Park and the Meadowlands. Monmouth conducts a Thoroughbred meeting, while the Meadowlands conducts both a Thoroughbred and a Standardbred meeting. Also in the state, Atlantic City Racecourse conducts a short summer Thoroughbred meeting, and Freehold Raceway conducts a Standardbred meeting.

Kulina said the subsidy will allow Monmouth and the Meadowlands to maintain daily average purse distributions that are on par with last year's. Last year, Monmouth distributed an average of $330,000 a day in overnight purses, while the Meadowlands distributed an average of $290,000 a day.