01/12/2011 5:33PM

N.J. governor uncertain to approve bill to aid racing

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Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey has not yet indicated whether he will sign a bill that would direct as much as $30 million over three years to subsidies for horse racing purses from a state casino fund, according to New Jersey racing officials.

The bill, which was passed on Monday night by both houses of the legislature, sets up a new regulatory body for the state’s casino district in Atlantic City. It would direct $15 million from the regulatory body’s 2011 budget to the New Jersey Racing Commission, which would be required to distribute the money “to the augmentation of purses,” according to the bill. The commission would receive $10 million in 2012, and $5 million in 2013.

Dennis Drazin, the chairman of the New Jersey Racing Commission, said he would not comment on the bill on Wednesday because of uncertainty over whether Christie would sign the legislation. Officials in Christie’s press office did not return phone calls on Wednesday.

A fiscal conservative, Christie has resisted calls from the state’s racing industry for subsidies, and he has said the state should no longer tolerate losses at the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, a state agency that owns and operates New Jersey’s two most prominent tracks, Monmouth Park and the Meadowlands.

The legislation passed Monday night does not specify what percentage of the money distributed to the commission should be allocated to Thoroughbreds and Standardbreds, but says that the commission should determine how the subsidies should be distributed.

Over the last three years, the authority received $90 million in payments from the state’s casinos in exchange for a promise that the authority would not seek casino gambling at its own properties. Approximately two-thirds of the money went to support the authority’s Thoroughbred racing operations.