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Gural said he's "optimistic" he can lease track

March 25, 2011

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Jeff Gural said he’s "optimistic" he can finalize a deal to lease the Meadowlands Racetrack and take over operations on June 1, but revealed that he is still in negotiations with union leaders for reductions.
“I think I’ve actually got the money lined up to do this,” he told Meadowlands announcer Sam McKee during an interview at the racetrack on Friday night before the racing card began. “When I started I thought it was a 10-1 or 20-1 shot. Finding $100 million in this day and age without slots is almost impossible, but we’ve been able to do it.”
Gural also revealed that Cantor Gaming is lined up to be a major investor. Lee Amaitis, who owned and raced harness horses in the 1980s, is CEO of Cantor Gaming and “knows more about gambling than anyone,” noted Gural.
Gural said in his talks with Amaitis they have brainstormed about new bets, taking on the rebate shops, changing the business model, and changing “this game upside down.”
While he’s got the money lined up, Gural said the union negotiations must still result in cost savings for the racing operation.  Gural said he went to the office of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie with his plan last Friday and had hoped to meet with them again this coming week, but was advised by his attorney early this evening that phone calls to union leaders had not been returned.
“Until I have a deal in place with the unions, I can’t go to the governor’s office. Unless we have some positive response from the unions, it doesn’t work,” said Gural.
Gural estimates operating the track will be a $10-$12 million loss until a new grandstand can be built and opened. He estimated a new grandstand could be open by June 2013. With an investment of $100 million, Gural said he needs a 30-year lease to justify the cost of a new grandstand.
Comparing the present Meadowlands grandstand, which opened in 1976 and is almost 35 years old, to the old Shea and Yankee stadiums, Gural said a new grandstand with a modern sports bar would help the track “start over to get a younger, new audience. This building was built for a different era when live racing was the thing.”
Gural also said opening the Bayonne OTW in 2012 is important to the business plan, and he expects the facility could be open in April of next year. “Once we’re in the new building and with Bayonne OTW open, we can probably do OK,” he said. (harnessracing.com)
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