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Bill to bring horse racing event to Atlantic City beach signed into law

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Horse racing could be coming to Atlantic City's beach this Columbus Day weekend, after Gov. Chris Christie signed a bill into law today permitting its use.

The race will be called the American Palio in Atlantic City and be modeled after the centuries-old Palio di Siena, a biannual racing event held in Siena, Italy. Legislators are hoping it will help to promote both the city's tourism efforts and horse racing in the state.

"We are bringing a unique event to the shores of Atlantic City, the likes of which our area has not seen before," state Sen. Donald Norcross (D-Audubon), a sponsor of the bill, said today in a statement. "This race and others like it will help to attract tourists to the resort town and contribute to the revitalization of the city."

The bill moved swiftly through the Legislature last week with bipartisan support, unanimously passing both the Assembly and Senate.

The new law gives the New Jersey Racing Commission the permission to grant the special permit, which can be used for up to two racing days per calendar year. If the race is scheduled for this year, it will be held Oct. 11 and 13.

While the Italian version features a one half-mile track around Siena's town square, the Atlantic City race will offer a distance of three quarters of a mile along the city's beach. A total of 50 horses will compete in a series of elimination races before the field is narrowed down to 10 for the championship race.

State Sen. Jim Whalen (D-Northfield) said the race will provide a nice boost to the city which just held the Miss America pageant for the first time since 2004.

"Atlantic City just hosted a successful Miss America pageant, which brought visitors from all corners of the country to our first-class shops, restaurants and casinos," Whelan, a bill sponsor, said. "This law clears the way for us to bring another exciting event into the city which will bring in racing fans from across the country and from abroad to enjoy."

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Andrew George

Andrew George

Andrew George covers the Statehouse from NJBIZ's Trenton bureau. Born and raised in N.J., Andrew has also spent time as a reporter in D.C., Texas and Pa. His email is andrewg@njbiz.com and he is @AndrGeorge on Twitter.

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