Jeffrey Gural, chairman of commercial brokerage Newmark Knight Frank and owner of two racetracks in upstate New York as well as horse farms, was tapped last week by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to partner with fellow owner-operators to submit a multi-million dollar plan to lease the money-losing Meadowlands Racetrack and turn it around financially.
Gural, who is scheduled to meet today with state racing officials and his architect, has until March 31 to submit a proposal to take control of the track. If the plan is not accepted, Christie says the track will close April 1. Gural spoke to The Real Deal this week about steep cuts needed to improve the track’s finances and when gambling might come to the New Jersey racetrack.
You have until March 31 to come up with a rescue proposal. What is the latest?
We are really at the beginning stages of the process. I am meeting over there on Thursday [today] with my architect and contractor and people from the [New Jersey Sports & Exposition Authority] to try to figure out a game plan.
How much will it cost to turn the track around?
If it costs more than $50 million, it is going to be tough because they currently have an income of about $30 million, but their expenses are $40 million. We’ve got to try and get the expenses down to $20 million to justify spending $50 million, if you know what I mean.
So you would cut annual expenses in half to $20 million?
I think you’d have to. Now part of it is that they raced last year 143 days. So we would only race 75 days. Automatically that would reduce some of the expenses. We would be probably eliminating Wednesdays and Thursdays and just focusing on Friday and Saturday.
Will there ever be other forms of gambling at the Meadowlands besides horse betting?
It is hard to say. The governor is focused right now on Atlantic City and getting that turned around. But at some point if Atlantic City is still struggling… I think the state would have no choice but to explore the possibility of putting a casino at the Meadowlands. But that is not part of the equation that this [proposal] is based on.