Meadowlands Racetrack Boss Says NFL ‘Lucky They Didn’t Win’ Sports Betting Suit

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Meadowlands Racetrack operator Jeff Gural landed a plum spot on the Fox Business Channel’s Mornings with Maria on Tuesday.

The taped segment aired at 6:50 a.m. ET — which might sound early, but not so much for that audience.

Gural was joined by SportsGrid founder Lou Maione, whose company on Monday launched an 18-hour daily sports betting program on XUMO, which is described as “the leading free, ad-supported TV (FAST) service.” It’s available on channel 719.

Host Maria Bartiromo asked Gural about the epic lawsuit filed in 2012 against New Jersey by the NFL, NCAA, and three other sports organizations, a saga finally resolved in the state’s favor by the U.S. Supreme Court last year.

“Truthfully, it made no sense,” said Gural of Congress’s Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992. “Why should something be legal in Nevada and illegal in New Jersey? And the joke of it is, the opposition to this was by the leagues — mainly the NFL — and they’re going to make a fortune by losing this lawsuit.

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“This may be the only time in history that someone litigated something designed to hurt them if they won — and lucky for them that they didn’t win,” Gural added. “They lost, as common sense prevailed.”

Gural didn’t do it alone

Gural credited Monmouth Park operator Dennis Drazin — with whom he has occasionally crossed swords — for working with the state legislature over the years to persist in the lengthy legal battle.

Bartiromo’s show also aired a second short taped segment with Maione near the end of the 6-9 a.m. programming block. That was on-site at the FanDuel Sportsbook at the Meadowlands Racetrack.

Maione mentioned a partnership with SportRadar for data, and viewers got a quick glimpse of the track property, and even a passing glimpse of the all-orange indoor snowdome of American Dream Meadowlands that awaits a makeover.

It’s worth noting that the casual watcher of this show would walk away unaware that New Jersey even offers mobile sports betting — an odd omission, in that nearly 85% of the monthly wagering is done that way.

XUMO, SportsGrid, and Meadowlands

“Linear, live programming is easy to watch and perfect for this core, loyal audience,” said Stefan Van Engen, XUMO’s head of partnerships and programming, in a statement. “Consumption of the sports genre has increased by an average of 8% month over month and we are excited to watch that number grow with the new programming SportsGrid is bringing to XUMO.”

The programming spot was a logical one, with the college football slate kicking up in earnest this weekend and with the NFL season not far behind.

It also comes at a time when the Meadowlands Racetrack is looking back on a solid horse racing season and looking ahead to a new one.

Total handle for The Hambletonian on Aug.  3, a picture-perfect summer day, was up by 15% to $6.5 million.

For perspective, the second-best handle in North America this year was $4.4 million in Ontario’s Woodbine at Mohawk Park on March 30 — on a night with a massive Super High-Five mandatory payout carryover.

Next after that was Meadowlands Pace night, at $4 million, and all told there were a dozen cards with a handle of at least $3 million at the East Rutherford track.

Total wagering was up 27% at the Meadowlands, and the per-card increase was 18%.

Those numbers are particularly significant because a $20 mm statewide and industry-wide annual subsidy passed by the state legislature this year requires that an annual report be issued to prove that the subsidy leads to better financial results. It seems the Meadowlands has passed its audition.

As for the track, live racing resumes with a thoroughbred meet on Fridays and Saturdays in October. There will be harness racing as well on Oct. 11, 12, 18, 25, and 26.

Bank on it

Also, Gural has decided to “bank” the turns at his track more in the European style.

“It’s frustrating to see so many races won by horses that make the front early and hold up,” said Gural in a statement. “I am always wanting the races to be more competitive and horses able to close into a win. The drivers said banking the turns would help, so I’m banking the turns. It should also make it easier on the horses as there won’t be the stress on their legs as there is without much bank, and maybe they won’t tire as badly.

“I’m also hopeful this will remove another reason they use to give each other holes early in the races. Those ‘professional courtesy’ tucks change the complexion of the races completely. The drivers must recognize that they are accountable to more than just themselves and the people connected to the horse; they are also responsible to the bettor to give their horse the best chance to win.”

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John Brennan

John Brennan has covered NJ and NY sports business and gaming since 2002 and was a Pulitzer Prize Finalist in 2008, while reporting for The Bergen County Record.

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