For some time now, BetMakers — the company that reached an agreement with the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association and Monmouth Park to offer fixed-odds horse racing in the Garden State — has contended it has “exclusive” rights to provide that form of betting in New Jersey.
That would include out-of-state signals from thoroughbred tracks “into New Jersey,” according to a January press release that announced an extension to BetMakers’ deal in the state. Simply put, BetMakers believes it is a gatekeeper for all thoroughbred fixed-odds wagering in New Jersey, whether it comes from Monmouth Park in Oceanport or from out of state.
But, according to industry sources inside and outside of New Jersey, that exclusivity has come under question. An email memo from Chuck Kimmel, deputy attorney general at the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE), meant to clarify the issue in April still left much up for interpretation.
In the email addressed to Bill Pascrell III (a lobbyist who represents BetMakers) and Chris McErlean (vice president of racing at Penn National Gaming, which owns and operates the standardbred harness track at Freehold Raceway), Kimmel wrote that both had “inquired separately about the Division of Gaming Enforcement’s … fixed odds temporary rules and the role to be played by the two New Jersey horsemen’s associations.”
Kimmel went on to explain that, while in-state fixed-odds wagering required consents from the respective breed (standardbred and thoroughbred) associations, “Nothing in [the cited rules] references the horsemen’s association in the state where the wager is made if the track where the race is run is in a different state.”
“Accordingly, the division’s position is that its rule requires the consent of the respective associations only where races subject to fixed-odds wagering are run in New Jersey,” Kimmel continued. “For races that occur at an out-of-state track, fixed-odds wagers are permissible if the New Jersey fixed odds wagering operator reaches an agreement with the out-of-state sending track and the appropriate horsemen’s association in the sending state.”
Under that interpretation, Freehold, should it want to offer fixed-odds wagering (it hasn’t yet), could reach agreements with out-of-state thoroughbred tracks to offer wagering on their signals without the authorization of BetMakers. That runs counter to BetMakers’ stated position that the “NJTHA has appointed [BetMakers] as its exclusive representative to enter into any written agreement thereby approving, denying, or conditioning the conduct and acceptance within New Jersey of fixed odds wagering (win, place and show) on thoroughbred racing, including: New Jersey thoroughbred content or any thoroughbred content originating outside of New Jersey.”
BetMakers maintains position
Pascrell declined to answer questions on the topic this week, but he previously maintained that BetMakers had exclusivity as the gatekeeper for all thoroughbred fixed-odds content. He pointed to a portion of the statute that legalized fixed-odds wagering in New Jersey, which requires that fixed-odds licensees “reach a business agreement with all standardbred and thoroughbred permit holders within this state as it pertains to wagering on the permit holder’s respective breed.”
When asked for comment, McErlean simply stated, “The email speaks for itself.”
But there are some indications there may be a further clarification to Kimmel’s clarification email from the DGE. The state agency has been taking meetings on the topic over the last month, according to industry sources, and a clarification could come as early as next week.
The DGE and state attorney general’s office declined to make Kimmel available or offer further comment for clarification when contacted by NJ Online Gambling.
Photo: Doug Hood/Asbury Park Press