Jeff Gural says that he's raised the $100 million he needs to transform the Meadowlands into a scaled-down, economically-feasible facility and build an OTW outlet in Bayonne, thus saving the track from oblivion. However, he still needs agreement from the unions.
“I thought we were going to be able to make a deal with the unions — especially the teller’s union — fairly quickly,” Gural said in the interview with race caller Sam McKee [on Saturday night]. “But it seems to be that they’ve had a change of heart. My lawyer told me a little while ago that he can’t get them on the phone.”The crux of Gural's plan is to raze the present grandstand, a once-thriving and vibrant building which comfortably handled the routine 20,000 plus weekend crowds but whose size now makes it obsolete, with a smaller structure on what is now the backstretch. Until then, he figures that he and his partners will lose some $10-$12 million. However, referring to a potential standoff with the unions, he said "but I’m not willing to lose $20 [million]."
It looks like the real crux is going to be dealing with the unions, and if we work things out, we’re in good shape. But that’s a big if, obviously.” [NorthJersey.com]
Gural talks about the need to "change this game upside down," including the need to introduce new kinds of wagering.
"In this day and age, we're not going to get people to read a program the way I started to read a program when I was 18. Maybe we should get people to approach it like they approach roulette or something like that. Red or black. Odd or even." [HarnessRacingUpdate.com (Free subscription req.)]Sounds pretty dull, but the idea that it's hard to interest people in studying a past performance program of any kind is probably and unfortunately right on these days. However, Gural's partner Cantor Gaming (a division of the Cantor Fitzgerald financial services firm) is known for innovative forms and means of wagering, including "in-running" betting on games and races (thus far for Triple Crown events) that are already underway, advance wagers at fixed odds and lower commissions, and a hand-held device which allows its casino patrons to play table games while they're sitting on the toilet.
I can't say that I've ever had much of a desire to bet on a race once they're off. I suppose you could switch gears if your horse gets left at the gate, but the expression 'good money after bad' comes to mind.
Gural has also floated the idea of the horsemen kicking in a percentage of their purse winnings to pay for marketing and drug enforcement; an idea that Joe Faraldo has expressed opposition to (and in fact Gural had threatened to pull out of the project had Faraldo won election as USTA chairman), but about which at least one owner agrees. Andrew Cohen writes in his First Over column on Harness Racing Update:
As an owner, for starters, I would be willing to take only 85 percent of purse money received from races at the Big M and Freehold, with the additional five percent reduction being used to better market and police the sport in the Garden State. That additional pool of money should not go to SBOANJ, which has enough on its plate, but rather to a smaller group of harness industry insiders who have new ideas about how to aggressively bring bettors and fans back to harness racing at the Big M.