By Jay Cook |
OCEANPORT – Sound the trumpets: Monmouth Park is set to open 2018 as track officials are patiently waiting in the winner’s circle for a landmark ruling deciding its future.
Monmouth Park is engaged in one of this year’s most anticipated U.S. Supreme Court cases as it battles alongside New Jersey to overthrow a federal regulation prohibiting sports betting in all but four states. While the decision hasn’t yet been handed down, a ruling this summer from the nation’s highest court could revolutionize the horse racing track into a 21st century, multi-faceted gaming and wagering destination.
The park’s operator, Dennis Drazin, is so confident they’ll be victorious that he’s channeling thoughts from Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Namath circa 1969.
“I’m not going to say, ‘I guarantee it,’ but I’m pretty close to it,” Drazin, chairman and CEO of Darby Development LLC, operators of Monmouth Park, told The Two River Times earlier this week.
Monmouth Park’s opening day on May 5 will mark five months since the U.S. Supreme Court first heard oral arguments in Murphy v. National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) – formerly known as Christie v. NCAA before former Gov. Chris Christie left office earlier this year.
The NJ Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, which Monmouth Park is associated with, is a party to the litigation with New Jersey as they petition the court to overturn the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), a regulation limiting legalized sports betting to Delaware, Montana, Nevada and Oregon.
“I’m very confident that we’re going to win,” said Drazin, a local attorney based in Red Bank. “I’m less confident in which way we’ll win.”
Drazin foresees two outcomes in the event the Supreme Court sides with New Jersey: either it determines a 2014 statewide repeal to all sports betting regulations is valid or it finds PASPA to be unconstitutional.
If the state repeal to sports betting regulations is the majority decision, then New Jersey’s sports betting industry would become a privately regulated entity that would “protect the public, would govern the sports betting industry and other sports betting facilities and racetracks would join and be governed by those rules,” Drazin said.
Sports betting at Monmouth Park would be up and running within two weeks of the court’s decision in that scenario, Drazin said.
The other avenue, finding PASPA unconstitutional, could mean the state has to go forward and introduce new legislation regulating a sports betting industry. But that could take time, Drazin continued, because of the necessary regulatory process of public meetings and public hearings.
With a sports betting decision possible as early as May 14, horse racing fans who frequent Monmouth Park have seen a mobilization in full effect. The William Hill Race & Sports Bar, located inside Monmouth Park, would be a hub of legalized betting – the space already has over 40 high-definition TVs and simulcast waging available to customers. Monmouth Park invested over $1 million in grandstand renovations earlier this year with room to accommodate up to 7,500 patrons outside the bar, Drazin added.
Then there are the different revenue projections on how much a legalized sports betting industry could generate in New Jersey. Drazin estimated that New Jersey’s market could generate about $10 billion, but that certainly isn’t set in stone.
“Go back to 2014 – Monmouth Park was the only one willing to do this,” he said. “Monmouth Park really was the first one to start this, so I think early on we would generate a big share of that money.”
Gearing up for 2018
With excitement surrounding the Oceanport-based establishment, Drazin said jockeys, trainers and owners alike all petitioned for an early start to the 2018 season. Monmouth Park doesn’t typically open for live racing until after the Kentucky Derby but that will change this year as fans will be able to place simulcast bets and live bets on Saturday, May 5.
Those calls for an early start were reinforced when stables opened for business late last month. Horses and training staffs from Kentucky to Colts Neck began arriving to Monmouth Park as early as April 20 in preparation for the upcoming racing season.
Drazin also said the racetrack will try bundling different grade stakes races together on specific days “to attract more fans and (generate) a higher interest.” Cards on May 26, June 17, June 30, July 29, Aug. 26 and Sept. 1 will have bundled races.
The gates on May 5 are set to open at 10 a.m. with a special post time of 1:45 p.m. Fans can take advantage of best-dressed couple and best hat competitions while also celebrating Cinco de Mayo themes around the racetrack.
Here’s a listing of the other events and festivals scheduled for Monmouth Park throughout the 2018 season. For more information, visit MonmouthPark.com.
May 5 Opening Day/Kentucky Derby Day
May 13 Mother’s Day
May 26 to 28 Jersey Shore Food Truck Festival
June 10 48th Annual Irish Festival
June 17 Father’s Day
June 23 to 24 Wine & Chocolate Festival
June 30 Summer Racing Festival T-Shirt Giveaway
July 8 Classic Car Show & Oldies Day
July 14 to 15 Surf & Turf Seafood Festival
July 28 Ladies’ Day
July 29 The betfair.com Haskell Invitational
Aug. 4 Italian Festival and Wine Tasting
Aug. 11 Cigar & Bourbon Picnic Pig Roast
Aug. 19 Latin Fiesta: Tu Sello Latino Fest
Aug. 26 NJ Thoroughbred Festival & Giveaway
Sept. 1 to 3 BBQ & Craft Beer Festival
Sept. 8 Food Trucktoberfest
This article was first published in the May 3-10, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.
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