New Jersey Racetrack Slot Machines Suggested by State Senator

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New Jersey state senator Joe Pennacchio (R-26) wants slot machines at New Jersey horse race betting venues.

To that end, he has this week introduced Bill SCR14 to the state legislature, co-sponsored by state Senator Joseph P. Cryan (D-20). It aims to allow a consortium of New Jersey casinos in Atlantic City to run slot games at the state’s three racetracks, such as Meadowlands Racetrack (pictured).

The machines would contribute 50% of revenues as taxes to the state. That’s an increase on the 8% tax on slots revenues from casinos. Its also in line with New Jersey’s neighbor, New York, where so-called “racinos” are taxed differently than full-scale casinos.

The seven such casino venues generated $932 million in tax receipts for the Empire State in 2022, the last full year of data.

That’s compared to the $707 million New Jersey received from the nine Atlantic City casinos in the same year.

Pennachio says that the state is missing out on tax dollars, given that current arrangement.

“We are leaving untapped money on the table. The monies generated would be constitutionally dedicated, with dollars going to Atlantic City infrastructure, the horse racing industry, the consortium, and state taxpayers,” Pennacchio said in a press release.

“Why does New Jersey continue to sit on the sidelines and have New York take advantage of a lucrative market which we should also be engaged in? A racino at the Meadowlands alone would be a game changer for New Jersey taxpayers.”

Details of the Bill

Under Pennachio’s proposal, Atlantic City casino operators would join forces to supply the slots to the three New Jersey horse race betting tracks.

Those are Freehold Raceway, The Meadowlands Racetrack, and Monmouth Park.

Pennachio proposes a novel way of dividing revenues among the casino consortium members. The bigger an operator’s yearly revenues at its AC casinos, the bigger its share of slot game revenues from the racetracks will be.

Pennachio says the extra tax dollars created will go back into Atlantic City to improve infrastructure and implement new public safety programs.

The bill is currently at the committee stage, with a full Senate and House vote needed before it can pass. It is also supported by Senator Cryan, who co-sponsored the bill, making it a bipartisan effort.

Pennachio also believes that any slots expansion of gambling at racetracks will be easy, as the infrastructure exists already.

Atlantic City casinos know how to operate slots, and racetracks know how to operate off-track betting, as they are one of the only states with fixed odds horse race betting. That’s opposed to the pari-mutuel betting that is available in many other states.

Slot Nation

Introducing slots into existing gambling venues is hardly a novel concept, although it may still be a tough sell with some politicians.

Across the U.S., slots games, or slots-style games like video lottery terminals, “skill-based” machines, or historical horse racing machines, are available in all sorts of places.

Regulators for Nevada casinos have long allowed slots in Las Vegas’ international airport.

Slots are played at gas stations and convenience stores in many states. In January, a state Senator in Alaska suggested onboard slots as an additional moneymaker for the state’s mass transit ferry system.

Even the long-mooted Los Angeles to Las Vegas high-speed train route has been considered for slots gaming.  

One project, called XTrain, wanted to put a full casino party train onto the line once complete, including slots and other casino games. It even had plans to extend its own branch line to reach a casino resort.

However, after a decade of delays, founder Michael Barron passed away in 2021, and there have been little to no updates on the idea since.

While the dream of slots on a high-speed train is on pause for now, New Jersey racetracks could soon get the nod from regulators.

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