In a not-so-shocking development, Monmouth Park will not be offering sports betting on Memorial Day weekend.
According to NJ Advance Media, legislation proposed by NJ Senate President Stephen Sweeney that would regulate sports betting in the state was affixed with a warning to those hoping to privately regulate ahead of the bill’s passage. Its message: don’t open a sports book before this bill passes, because if you do, you’ll be barred from future participation.
Monmouth on board with decision
For months, Monmouth Park has made it known that should the federal ban on sports betting (PASPA) be lifted by the US Supreme Court, it would be ready to launch within weeks of the ruling.
This proclamation, unlike so many in the gambling industry, wasn’t completely outlandish. Monmouth has been banking on legalized sports betting dating back years, and has taken legitimate steps to ensure that it will be at the forefront of the industry.
For instance, in 2013 the horse racing venue forged a partnership with internationally renowned sports betting giant William Hill. This relationship manifested in a Will Hill sponsored sports bar at the facility, with aims of converting it to a full-service sports book at the first available opportunity.
When news broke that PASPA was declared unconstitutional, Darby Development CEO Dennis Drazin was quick to declare that it would open its sports book ahead of legislation, with an eye on Memorial Day. Darby Development operates Monmouth Park.
The venue was clearly taking this timeline seriously, as Will Hill was already making some of its launch plans known:
.@WilliamHillUS plans to offer same lines, odds and betting menu in New Jersey as they do in Nevada. Betting will begin over the counter only, until gaming enforcement and legislature sets regulations for mobile wagering.
— David Payne Purdum (@DavidPurdum) May 16, 2018
However Drazin did add a disclaimer to his bold plan: “We would defer to the legislature if they have any different views, but I know the legislature is going to move swiftly on this.”
Drazin is staying true to his word, recently claiming: “I have not spoken to the Senate president yet, but I have said all along and I have said to the Senate president that I would go along with the legislative process. So I would comply.”
A short delay
While a Memorial Day launch may be out of the question, Monmouth Park shouldn’t have to wait too long to get up and running, as New Jersey didn’t fight for the right to offer sports betting for six years only to rest on its laurels now.
Already, a bill (S2602) has been introduced that would grant regulatory oversight of the industry to the NJ Division of Gaming Enforcement. It also sets rules for taxation and licensing fees, as well as who can procure a license.
Sweeney has been pretty adamant about getting the bill across the finish line by the Senate’s June 7 voting session. It appears exceedingly likely that it will pass and be sent to Governor Murphy’s desk that day.
In that scenario, Monmouth is well positioned for a mid-to-late June launch, just mere weeks after Memorial Day.
Is a first mover status really that important?
Given its aggressiveness, it appears that Monmouth Park believes being first to market offers a significant advantage. That’s a questionable position.
Certainly there are benefits to launching before anyone else, as the media headlines and novelty will undoubtedly draw punters to the facility. But we’d argue that it’s far more important to launch a quality product.
The NJ online gambling industry learned this the hard way, as the market’s first movers were hampered by payment processing, geolocation, and server issues, costing themselves customers in the critical early goings. Not to mention, it’s become clear that over the long-haul, being first to market means very little, as sites that launched several weeks after the go-live date (Golden Nugget Casino) and even those who went live years after (Play SugarHouse) have claimed significant market share.
Furthermore, it’s not like the sports betting market will be inundated with competitors early on. The only other facility (that we know of) with a sports book that might be raring to go on launch day is the Borgata. Churchill Downs did recently announce a partnership with Golden Nugget, but that’s tailored more toward the online space.
Regardless of when it launches, Monmouth Park is an a unique position to capitalize on sports betting. That’s because it is located closer to New Jersey’s main population centers than Atlantic City casinos. This should serve as a minor advantage for the facility. A well put together online sports book powered by William Hill will only strengthen its position, as online appears that it will be a far bigger money maker than land-based sports wagering.