Pallone Statement at Public Meeting on the Future of Monmouth Park
"I would like to thank the members of the stakeholders committee and the Sports Authority for holding a public forum tonight so that local citizens can voice their opinions on the future of Monmouth Park. I suggest that this not be the only public hearing. As more information unfolds about the Sports Authoritys plans, there should be additional opportunities for the public to be heard.
"It's also important that any relevant information including any reports submitted to the Sports Authority or its members be made available to the public. This should also include the Lehman Brothers report recommending Monmouth Park be leased to private investors.
"Let me stress that Monmouth Park is very important to Monmouth County in general. As a successful racetrack, Monmouth Park has attracted racing enthusiasts, vacationers, and local residents for more than 130 years. It's not only a part of our economy, but also a part of our history and a part of the Jersey Shore culture. As an elected official representing Monmouth County, I have an obligation to make sure that the track remains viable in the future.
"For Monmouth Park to continue to make money it must have the ability to attract consumers and that means it must remain competitive. In the horse racing industry, competition depends on the quality of racing and the quality of gambling. There has recently been quite a bit of talk surrounding the future use of Video Lottery Terminals, or VLTs. VLTs, a fancy term for slot machines, are slowly being instituted in tracks in neighboring states and promise to significantly increase the revenue and purses at those tracks. That means better racing and better gambling. Therefore, it is important that New Jersey s racing industry, including Monmouth Park, not be excluded from this new source of revenue.
"While it's possible there may be a compromise by the state that would prevent the machines from being installed immediately and still direct extra revenue to Monmouth Park, it is integral, due to our competition, that this agreement be short term. We cannot adequately predict how much business Monmouth Park will lose if it does not get these machines in a few years and its competitors do. Furthermore, I am not satisfied with any agreement by the state that leaves Monmouth Park in jeopardy only to further the casino monopoly in New Jersey. Monmouth Park must continue to have appeal and that means quality racing and quality gambling.
"Monmouth Park must also retain its beautiful setting. It's more important now than ever that we look to conserve land like Monmouth Park. Residential or commercial development should be prohibited on the property.
"The Sports Authority continues to develop land it owns in the vicinity of Monmouth Park on a piecemeal basis. This practice must stop until it is clearly identified what property is integral in the operation of the track, and therefore, protected from any efforts to develop the land in a piecemeal fashion.
"The best way for Monmouth Park to be preserved in the future is for the state, through the Sports Authority, to continue to own and operate the track because the public will have the greatest input. Fortunately, the Sports Authority seems to oppose the outright sale of Monmouth Park, but rather seems determined to take a middle path of leasing it to a private company. As an elected official, I am concerned that the path of leasing the track does not ultimately lead to its closing because the new operator does not perform well. While I may prefer that the track not be leased, if it is, there need to be strong provisions in the lease to guarantee the long term viability of the track, the preservation of the environment surrounding it, and the protection of the track employees.
"The employees of Monmouth Park have made it a success. They must be treated with the respect they deserve. Any agreement must include protections to current employees of guaranteed wages, benefits and overall employment status. At the same time, Monmouth Park must not become a burden on Oceanport and therefore the borough must continue to receive a sufficient in lieu of tax payment under any agreement.
"Again, I want to thank you for the opportunity to be heard and for providing an open forum where local residents can voice their opinions. I hope there will be more forums of this kind in the future."