Work Begins on First New Jersey Standalone Sportsbook, Despite Legal Spat with Parx Owner Greenwood
Posted on: July 26, 2019, 11:37h.
Last updated on: July 26, 2019, 01:41h.
A developer determined to bring the first-ever New Jersey standalone retail sports betting outlet to the former Garden State Park Racetrack in Cherry Hill has said he is close to choosing a partner to operate a future book, despite efforts by the track’s former owner to block it.
In a court filing first spotted by The Press of Atlantic City, Cherry Hill Towne Center Partners (CHTP) said it was in “active discussions” with two unnamed potential partners, both of which had full licensing in New Jersey.
NJGamblingSites notes that William Hill and The Stars Group both have offices in Cherry Hill and have quickly become well-established in the state.
CHTP also said it had “commenced the build out of the facility” and confirmed the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (NJDGE) had conducted a preliminary inspection of the site.
New Jersey’s gaming regulations authorize sports betting at casinos and racetracks only — and that includes its two defunct tracks: Garden State Park and the Atlantic City Raceway.
The Garden City track closed in 2001 and CHTP has begun redeveloping the site into a mixed-use residential and retail center.
But the racetrack’s former owner, Garden Park Racing (GPR), argues a restrictive covenant drawn up 20 years ago forbids “gaming of any sort … at any time by any party other than” the ownership group and its affiliates.
CHTP sued GPR and its parent, Greenwood Gaming, asking for a judgment that the covenant was either unenforceable or couldn’t be applied to sports betting, which hadn’t existed legally in the state when the agreement was drawn up.
CHTP also argues that the ongoing legal spat does not preclude it from applying for a sports betting license or ultimately from opening the sports book and taking bets. GPR and Greenwood have applied to the judge for an injunction to prevent just that, and a decision is pending.
Greenwood is the owner of the Parx Casino in Bensalem, Pennsylvania. The Garden State Park site is just across the Delaware River from Philadelphia, and 20 miles from Parx, which launched its own sports betting operations last month.
Greenwood also owns off-track betting parlors in Philadelphia and Valley Forge and, in another twist, New Jersey’s only other defunct racetrack that would qualify for a sports betting license. That track — the Atlantic City Race Course — has made no moves as of yet towards obtaining a license.
William Tambussi, an attorney for CHTP, has described Greenwood’s position as “a blatant attempt to restrain competition so they can secure a monopoly for their own sports wagering operations.”
He argues the covenant “does not expressly or clearly prohibit (CHTP) from opening and operating a sports wagering facility” at Garden State Park, adding that it was “highly unlikely that the parties intended to restrict sports wagering because it was unlawful at that time.”
One of CHTP’s controlling members is Jack Morris, who is also a part-owner of the Hard Rock Atlantic City, a position that puts him in “good standing” with New Jersey casino regulators, according to court filings.