EAST RUTHERFORD – The N.J. Sports & Exposition Authority is in negotiations to deal Monmouth Park to a new casino owner, but with new chairman and former Congressman Mike Ferguson in his first meeting at the helm, N.J. Sports & Exposition Authority President Dennis Robinson announced the resignation of another board member, Arthur Winkler.
Winkler was a longtime insider at the NJSEA, and a Senior V.P. at Cooper University Hospital in Camden. He was serving on the board appointed by the Assembly Speaker, but not Sheila Oliver, who will appoint his replacement. Winkler was tapped for the board by former Speaker Joe Roberts, after Winkler had worked as NJSEA house counsel, then V.P. of Off-Track Wagering, Senior Vice President for Legal & Governmental Affairs, and, finally, CEO. Winkler lives in Philadelphia, and had been fading from significance on a board changing directions.
In March, Commissioner Joseph Spicuzzo resigned after his arrest on corruption charges.
With the organizational transition ongoing, the NJSEA is juggling two very tenuous situations this week.
First, they’re in negotiations for private leasing of state-run Monmouth Park with Morris Bailey, a horse breeder and new owner of Atlantic City’s Resorts Casino.
Looking at a five-year lease of the Oceanport track and off-track wagering facilities, Bailey had the best of eight offers, all of which cost managers a $25,000 refundable deposit in March.
Second, the Meadowlands Racetrack unions are entertaining the offer from New York real estate executive Jeff Gural to rebuild a mini-track on the opposite side of the existing one.
Tonight, the mutual clerk and security guard unions are taking critical votes on Gural’s proposal to make their recommendations to the Authority before tomorrow’s deadline extension arrives.
One of the unanswered questions is what will be done with the palatial racetrack’s simulcast betting areas, which bring in roughly $200 million per year, according to NJSEA VP of Public Affairs John Samerjan.
Robinson said the deal, if it can be completed, “forms the foundation of a financial model that will work going forward.”
During the public portion of the meeting today, local gadfly and racetrack loyalist Lenny – who wouldn’t put his name on the record – asked Ferguson, “Tomorrow, if this deal doesn’t go through, what happens to the racetrack?”
After a pause, Ferguson replied, “We’ll have to find out.”
Lenny, well-known by racetrack so-and-sos, said, “This place is a gold mine. This track will not close. The unions and the people will keep it open.”
After his first meeting, Ferguson said he and Christie are on the same page, but that the governor’s synergy with the NJSEA predates him.
His job is to help the staff and leadership “adjust” to the changing times, still providing sports and entertainment “in a way that makes sense for the taxpayer.”