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Big M issues press release

December 08, 2006
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It\'s official! The Meadowlands has issued a press release announcing that Christopher M. McErlean has resigned as vice president of racing operations, concluding a 14-year tenure with the New Jersey Sports & Exposition Authority. In Jan. 2007, McErlean, 39, will be joining Penn National Gaming Inc. as vice president of racing. The following press release was issued by the Meadowlands:

McErlean, who became part of the management team at the Meadowlands as director of marketing and simulcasting in 1992, rose through the ranks to oversee the racing operations at both the Meadowlands and its sister track, Monmouth Park.

\"Chris McErlean epitomizes all that is good about racing and all that is good about our state,\" said George Zoffinger, president and CEO of the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority. \"His hard work and efforts over the years made us the jewel of racing across the country. While I am happy for him personally, I know that we will miss him professionally. I wish him nothing but the best.\"

After serving as executive assistant at Harness Tracks of America from 1989 to 1992, McErlean came to the Meadowlands as marketing director in 1992 and then oversaw a consolidated marketing and media department before shifting to the roles of assistant, then associate and then general manger [1994 through 2004]. In January of 2005, he was named vice president for racing operations were he oversaw 1,500 employees, facilities that generated $150 million in gross revenue [in 2005] and a $90 million annual budget. In 2005, the Meadowlands generated $480 million in wagering and hosted more than 1.45 million guests, both the highest for any single pari-mutuel facility in North America.

\"In the 14 years I have been at the Meadowlands and Monmouth Park, there could have been no better combination of great mentors and outstanding peers than those whom I have had the pleasure and privilege to work with at the NJSEA tracks,\" said McErlean. \"Being a part of all of the great races and events at the NJSEA tracks has been a great thrill. I\'ve had an enviable spot for some time and I truly understand and appreciated that.

\"I really want to thank all of those employees whom I worked with and the horsemen as well who made my job that much easier,\" noted McErlean. \"I also want to thank our guests, for without them there is no business. My new role will have me actively engaged in the racing industry, and in New Jersey -- through Penn Gaming\'s interest in Freehold Raceway. It will be a different perspective, but I\'m looking forward to the challenge.\"

It was McErlean\'s concept to introduce the Big M Club, one of the first frequent player rewards programs in racing, in 1996. It now tracks more than 35 percent of the on-site handle at the Meadowlands and Monmouth Park. That same year he oversaw the development and implementation of one of the industry\'s leading websites, www.thebigm.com.

His concern for the horseplayer began quite legitimately as a handicapper. He was 14 when he became the handicapper and racing writer for the Delaware County Daily Times in Primos, Pennsylvania. He provided the selections, with commentary, for racing at both Keystone [now Philadelphia Park] and Delaware Park.

\"The newspaper gig lasted about eight months, and I was averaging about a 30 percent winning clip and for most of the time I had a positive return on investment,\" he told Harness Racing Communications several months ago. \"My stats and winning picks were tracked daily and were right up there with the Inquirer and other Philly newspaper handicappers. The job obviously helped stoke my continued interest in racing, and it was a great experience in writing and keeping disciplined.

\"I\'ve always kept an interest in the handicapping/gambling side of the business as a fan, and I consider myself pretty knowledgeable and at times successful from the handicapping side,\" he added. \"I get defensive at times when comments come out about, \'the suits at the track who know nothing about gambling or handicapping.\' Well, I do know handicapping and I know gambling. Of course I can\'t and don\'t devote my waking hours to those endeavors but since a large part of my current job is to understand handicappers and gamblers, I think my background that grew out of this first job has helped me be successful in \'speaking the same language\' as our guests.\"

McErlean, who earned his BS in economics and finance from the University of Scranton in 1989 and MBA in marketing from Fairleigh Dickinson University in 1991, has been an active member of the racing community for more than a dozen years. He was president of Harness Tracks of America from 2002 to 2004 and HTA chairman of the board since 2004. He is a director of the USTA and the Thoroughbred Racing & Protective Bureau. He was director of the Thoroughbred Racing Association in 2005 [alternate in 1998 through 2004] and on the American Horse Council Racing Advisory Committee from 2002 to 2004.

At Penn National Gaming, McErlean will oversee all racing operations at six racetracks and six off-track wagering facilities. He will be based at the Hollywood Casino at Penn National, a racing and gaming facility currently under construction outside of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and will report directly to Penn National Gaming Senior Vice President, Regional Operations, John Finamore. Penn National Gaming\'s racing interests include Penn National, Charles Town, Bangor Raceway and Freehold Raceway.

McErlean and his wife, Michele, and their two daughters, 11-year-old Maura and seven-year-old Cara, will be relocating later next year from West Orange, New Jersey to the Harrisburg area.
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