New This Year: Exchange Wagering
By John Burton
OCEANPORT – Operators of Monmouth Park have some plans for the coming season and big hopes that voters will endorse gaming outside of Atlantic City.
This 2016 season, starting on Saturday, May 14, is the thoroughbred horseracing track’s 71st year. It will mark the introduction of a new, additional way to place bets. Also, track proponents are keeping their fingers crossed that voters on Nov. 8 will endorse a referendum that would allow for gaming and establishing two casinos outside of Atlantic City.
Attorney Dennis Drazin, who represents New Jersey Thoroughbred Horseman’s Association, and is an advisor to Darby Development, LLC, the entities that operate Monmouth Park, told the audience at a press conference and luncheon on Tuesday that the referendum would mean an additional revenue stream for locations like this one in Oceanport. “So, it’s important for Monmouth Park that the referendum passes.”
Monmouth Park has been waging what, up until now, has been an unsuccessful legal battle in federal court to win gambling, including sports betting, at tracks. Such groups as the NFL and the NBA have been blocking New Jersey’s efforts. Drazin and other Monmouth Park supporters have continued to stress that revenue stream was imperative to keeping the track vital. They added the money would help allow track operators to move forward with site improvements—such as restaurants, a concert amphitheater and boardwalk-style attractions—to have Monmouth Park grow as a family-friendly destination.
“We’re trying to do everything we can to enhance the experience,” Drazin said.
Should voters approve it, the referendum would permit casinos that are at lease 72 miles away from Atlantic City. Monmouth Park would not be a location. However, Drazin said, at this point, the referendum and the accompanying legislation would designate 2 percent of revenue generated to be allocated to support the state’s horse breeding industry and racing.
State Senator Jennifer Beck (R-11), offered her support for the referendum, racing and horse breeding—long a vital staple of the state and Monmouth County economies but now a challenging one.
Beck, who called horseracing “a personal passion,” noted 14 Monmouth County horse farms have closed. Another seven are likely to follow suit, resulting in the loss of those businesses and jobs, as well as the loss of 776 acres of open space.
Beck and other legislators were concerned over the meager 2 percent that would be earmarked. But Beck said in her conversations with state Senate President Steve Sweeney that amount would be the “minimum” and additional funds would eventually make its way into this industry.
“It’s incredibly important to Monmouth Park and incredibly important to the residents of New Jersey,” that the referendum passes, Beck said.
This year Monmouth Park is partnering with Betfair, a British company, to establish Internet-based exchange wagering. New Jersey is the first state in the country to move forward with this, Drazin said, with California getting ready to implement it.
Internet exchange betting is popular around the world and is a fixed-odds, peer-to-peer form of wagering. It would also allow individuals to place bets even while the race is underway, Drazin explained. Up to this point, betting on individual races stopped once the horses began running.
“We’re hoping this,” Drazin said of this new type of gaming, “will draw people who want to see it live,” referring to the racing.
This type of gaming would likely attract younger, tech-savvy fans, Drazin said.
Betfair this year will be the titled sponsor of the $1 million Haskell Invitational race in August. Last year’s Haskell drew Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, and record-breaking crowds of an estimated 65,000 attendees to the racetrack.
The track shortly will have the opening of a new dining option, consisting of three levels, from the most casual to the high end, Drazin added.
“We continue to persevere,” he maintained.
“The track did well,” last year, Drazin said. It arrived at a breakeven point, financially, with strong crowds and larger prizes offered to race winners. This year, however, the track decided to reduce the race purses, other than the named events. The reason, he explained, is that track operators, who have been running things for five years, now face paying the previously deferred loan obligations, as well as needing to make additional repairs and upgrades on the facility.
Monmouth Park is Oceanport’s largest taxpayer and a significant area employer.
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