Meadowlands Racetrack And Sportsbook Reopen, Welcome Bettors Who Prefer In-Person Experience

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The Meadowlands Racetrack reopened to the public on Saturday morning after an 11-day, COVID-19-related break.

“We had an employee that attended a wedding in upstate New York test positive after not feeling well,” track spokeswoman Rachel Ryan told NJ Online Gambling. “We immediately did contract tracing and quarantined those with close contact with this staff member.

“We decided to temporarily close down and do mandatory COVID-19 testing on all staff,” Ryan added. “After a few more positives (most of which were from asymptomatic people), we decided to remain closed based on the recommendation of our medical team.

“During this shutdown, we did floor-to-ceiling sanitizing and installed stand-alone air filtration units in our smaller areas because we wanted to be proactive and get ahead of this.”

But not quite all is back to normal yet.

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For instance, the FanDuel Sportsbook — which had limited, socially distanced dining and drinking on the opening Monday night of the NFL season — had no seating available for the just-completed Week 5 Sunday games.

The waiting is the hardest part

Meanwhile, a visitor on Sunday who arrived around the early kickoffs at 1 p.m. and was determined to place wagers with a teller had to wait 55 minutes to do so.

That included standing in a socially distanced line outside that formed under a canopy, with COVID questionnaires filled out, followed by a temperature check and then eventually a walk through a metal detector.

meadowlands racetrack entrance covid
A canopy covers gamblers lined up to place their Sunday bets in person

From there, the line continued by snaking through the former dining area until one of six teller windows opened up. Two masked-up New Jersey state troopers stood watch to ensure that mask usage and social distancing was up to snuff.

fanduel sportsbook social distance instructions

The one “break in the chain” came after getting through the metal detectors and before getting inside the sportsbook. But even for that period of only a minute or two, mask usage was satisfactory, though the distancing fell short.

The mostly young crowd naturally spent time on their cellphones — which could have had either the FanDuel Sportsbook app or one for the more than a dozen other legal, regulated sportsbooks in the state, among them DraftKings, BetMGM, PointsBet, and William Hill.

In fact, any adult who is inside the New Jersey state lines who has such an account can wager anywhere that they can pick up a cellphone signal — including their own living rooms.

More on Meadowlands, and a note about Monmouth Park

A few of those who chose to wait in the long lines just vaguely responded, “I like cash” — and several industry experts later agreed that is likely the motive.

“People want to bet cash and get cash,” said one. “They don’t want to link up bank accounts and then not be able to get those winnings in their hands right away.”

Meanwhile, all of the televisions at the sportsbook featured scoreboards and COVID information rather than live NFL games — though the LED ribbons did offer the usual real-time information such as score and time remaining for each game.

At the adjacent simulcasting area within the Meadowlands Racetrack, the regulars were back in droves, so the televisions featured out-of-town horse races.

The Friday and Saturday horse racing had gone on uninterrupted, minus the public. Those harness races continue on that schedule for the rest of the year.

At Monmouth Park, there have been no positive tests, track operator Dennis Drazin confirmed to NJ Online Gambling on Monday. However, the track had to cancel its scheduled eight-race Columbus Day card due to “heavy rain and wind.”

Racing resumes there for matinee cards on Wednesday and Saturday this week and next week, with the last live card of 2020 coming on Oct. 24.

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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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