Sports Betting Could Rescue Atlantic City Race Course, Redevelopment Plan Announced

Posted on: October 22, 2019, 10:23h. 

Last updated on: October 22, 2019, 12:00h.

Legal sports betting in New Jersey is fueling an effort to redevelop and reopen the shuttered Atlantic City Race Course that has sat vacant for more than four years.

sports betting Atlantic City Race Course
Thanks to sports betting, new life could be coming to the closed Atlantic City Race Course(Image: Thomas Franklin/The Record)

Property owner Greenwood ACRA purchased the track in 2001 for $15 million. Greenwood also owns the Parx Casino outside Philadelphia in Bensalem, Pennsylvania.

Located roughly 15 miles west of the Boardwalk casinos, Greenwood closed the Atlantic City Race Course in 2015. Four casinos closed the earlier year.

“We regret to announce that we must close Atlantic City Race Course immediately due to continuous business decline in the industry, the current regional economic climate, and the absence of alternative revenue opportunities,” Greenwood ACRA President Joe Wilson said at the time.

But with the May 2018 decision by the US Supreme Court that repealed the federal ban on sports betting, there’s new hope for the storied race track, whose investors once included show business icons Frank Sinatra and Bob Hope.

Redevelopment Plan

Greenwood might not have been able to identify “alternative revenue opportunities” in January of 2015 when it closed the track. But today, sports betting is certainly a viable option.

New Jersey’s sports betting law allows not only Atlantic City casinos to operate sportsbooks – both land-based and online – but also horse racetracks.

Permitting sports betting at the Atlantic City Race Course will, hopefully, provide the financial opportunity needed for the owners to be able to fix up or sell an unused eyesore,” New Jersey Senator Chris Brown (R-Atlantic County) said last year when he was still an Assembly member.

Now, Greenwood is moving forward with a memorandum of understanding with Hamilton Township to form a redevelopment plan for the horse racetrack. The company will work with local officials to decide the best path forward.

Brown told the Press of Atlantic City this week, “All along, I’ve felt this site presented a great opportunity for new growth in our county, which is why I appreciate the township and Greenwood working together to find the best way to revitalize the race track and further diversify our economy while creating new jobs for our middle class families.”

Reps for Greenwood have suggested building a hotel with gaming space at the track.

Sports Betting Benefits

Legal sports betting is now operational in 13 states, but none are doing it better than New Jersey, which has quickly surpassed Nevada as the richest sports gambling jurisdiction.

Low taxes on sports betting win, plus mobile wagering, have proven key to success. And New Jersey’s two horse racetrack sportsbooks are benefitting.

Year to date, the Meadowlands sportsbook has by far reported the largest sports betting revenue haul. The FanDuel book has won more than $95.7 million – which is 50.2 percent of the state’s $190.6 million sports betting income.

Monmouth Park, the other New Jersey horse racetrack sportsbook that is operated by William Hill, has won $18 million.

Meadowlands owner Jeff Gural says New York only permitting sports betting to occur at its four upstate casinos – without mobile wagering – is allowing his North New Jersey track to prosper. He says it’s already the richest sportsbook in the world.

“People tell me it’s just the beginning,” Gural said in August. “Inning one, we’re going to do $500 million. I believe the biggest sportsbook in Las Vegas does $300 million. In one year, we’ve surpassed by a lot a company that’s been in Vegas for a long time.”