Executive Summary: Impact of Slot Machines/Video Lottery Terminals

Written by Karyn Malinowski, Ph.D. and Ryan Avenatti, M.S
Tuesday, 28 July 2009 09:19

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Executive Summary

The New Jersey equine industry is valued at $4 billion and generates $1.1 billion annually in positive impact on the New Jersey economy, is responsible for 13,000 jobs (7,000 jobs generated by racetracks and horse racing breeding and training operations), and pays an estimated $160 million annually in federal, state, and local taxes ($85 million generated by equine operations and owners and $75 million generated by New Jersey racetracks). Contributing to the total economic impact are New Jersey’s four racing venues (The Meadowlands, Freehold Raceway, Monmouth Park Racetrack, and Atlantic City Race Course), valued at $502 million annually.

Regarding acres, 176,000 total acres support equine facilities; 96,000 of these acres are directly related to equine activities, 78,000 are devoted to pasture and hay production, with 46,000 additional acres producing hay for horses on non-equine-related operations. Equine-related acres represent more than one-fifth of the state's 790,000 acres in agriculture.

Regarding animals and operations, 42,500 equine animals are housed in New Jersey at 7,200 facilities. Of the 42,500 equine animals, 12,500 (nearly 30 percent) are in racing-related activities. These include 8,200 standardbreds and 4,300 thoroughbreds that are either actively racing or are racing breeding stock.

The installation of slot machines or video lottery terminals (VLTs) has proven to be a successful way to boost horse racing, specifically with enhanced purses and breeders awards in statesprovinces where they are in place. Examples of these are 1) the Delaware Certified Thoroughbred Horse Program whose intent is to contribute to the long-term economic prosperity of Delaware agriculture and encourage the preservation of Delaware farmland; 2) the establishment of the Pennsylvania Race Horse Development fund, within the state treasury, with the intent to further stimulate the viability and quality of racing; and 3) more than $2.74 billion has been shared between racetrack owners and horsemen in the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Program. Over the eight year period between 1992 (pre-slots) and 2000 (post-slots) purses increased by 254% for standardbred horses and by 115% for thoroughbred horses in Ontario.

  • In 2008, forty-four racetrack casinos in the United States generated $6.19 billion in gross gaming revenues. Gross purses totaled $135.3 million the year before slots were implemented at seventeen tracks in North America. In 2007, the same tracks had gross purses of $295.2 million, a 118 percent increase.
  • In states where slots exist Average daily gross slot terminal revenue at horse racing facilities is higher on racing days versus non-racing days; total number of race days, live racing handles on-track, total export or simulcast handles, and total purses increased. Also, state treasuries are receiving additional income from slot revenue to be used for a variety of programs, e.g. property tax relief and education.
  • The past two Purse Enhancement Agreements from New Jersey casinos have attempted to maintain the purse structure at the Meadowlands Racetrack. In 2006, New Jersey led the nation in total purses paid for harness racing. However, in 2008, New Jersey ranked third behind New York and Pennsylvania for total purses paid.
  • Off-track and internet wagering have been successful in New Jersey. However, only three of the 15 authorized off-track wagering centers have opened since first authorized in 2001. Racing interests should take advantage of the 2001 legislation and proceed with the strategic opening of additional wagering outlets while at the same time being cognizant of the impact these gambling outlets will have on live handle at the racetracks.
  • The Garden State stands to lose its premier agribusiness which generates $780 million of economic impact annually, 7,000 jobs, $110 million in federal, state and local taxes and 57,000 acres of working agricultural landscape and open space if racing-related activities leave New Jersey. These figures do not include the non-racing segment of the horse industry.
  • The current business model which exists is no longer viable, with 2009 projections by the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority of losses of $10 million and $10.8 million for The Meadowlands and Monmouth Park racetracks, respectively.
  • It is estimated that the combined impacts of existing and scheduled future machines in Pennsylvania and the New York City metropolitan area racetracks will reduce Atlantic City gross gaming revenue by as much as 12.3 percent. It was also projected that installation of video lottery terminals at three New Jersey racetracks would reduce Atlantic City gross gaming revenue by 1.8 percent.

The national economic downturn certainly has had an impact on household discretionary income available for gambling interests regardless of the outlet. Pari-mutuel wagering can no longer ensure racing’s sustainability; nor can it fund the ever increasing costs of improving an aging plant infrastructure or with the promotion and marketing that needs to be conducted to introduce racing to a “new” generation of fans. These additional funds might be supplied by state funds as a direct subsidy, through continued Purse Enhancement Agreements from the Atlantic City casinos; or by increasing revenue by adding slot machines or video lottery terminals to New Jersey racetracks and providing a portion of that revenue for the horse racing and breeding industry.

The installation of video lottery terminals at New Jersey racetracks has the potential to be a “win-win” situation for both the racing and casino industries. The revenue would enhance the state budget significantly and provide capital for use by the horse racing industry to keep it competitive. Racinos would add jobs to the state, during construction and renovations of the racetracks as well as during operation. Video lottery terminals run by the operators of Atlantic City casinos would help these interests diversify sources of revenue.

Irrespective of the source of much needed revenue to ensure the future of racing in the Garden State, the racing industry needs to invest a portion of those dollars in things besides purses to ensure continued viability. These include marketing of live racing and creation of a racing brand, creating innovative wagers, reductions in costs of regulating racing and the role of the New Jersey Racing Commission, investment in capital improvements and maintaining the integrity of racing, including research to benefit the equine athlete.

It was the intent of this paper to provide an overview of what slot machines or video lottery terminals have done for the economy, horse racing and breeding industry, and agriculture in states and provinces where they exist to assist policy decision makers in the state as they deliberate racing’s future. It is the belief of these authors that the horse racing and breeding industry are commodities worth saving in New Jersey. The issue at hand is not an emotional one driven by the fact that the state animal is the horse which has a long and prominent history in New Jersey’s agricultural and sports businesses. Horse racing is the economic driving engine of the entire horse industry in the state and is extremely valuable to the quality of life in the form of agricultural working landscape which benefits all residents of New Jersey.


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Executive Summary: Impact of Slot Machines/Video Lottery Terminals