Monmouth Park Operator After Partnering With theScore: ‘I Didn’t Ask For Three Skins’

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Of all the movers and shakers at the recent ICE sports betting event in Manhattan — and there were plenty — one of the most popular was Monmouth Park operator Dennis Drazin.

That’s because he still had in his pocket something that gaming companies worldwide covet: a third “skin” arrangement for the Oceanport racetrack that would allow a partner to offer online sports betting in New Jersey.

And with a total handle in the state, including casinos, racetracks, and online sites, that neared $1 billion in less than six months, it’s no wonder Drazin had so many “friends.”

On Tuesday, Drazin’s new partner was announced. It’s theScore, Inc., a Toronto-based company that has millions of enthusiasts per month logging onto its mobile platform for scores, news, statistics, and real-time alerts for both sports bets and personalized daily fantasy sports rosters. This is a first-of-its-kind partnership, with a North American media company becoming the sports betting partner.

Darby Development, Drazin’s company, already had struck deals with William Hill — the British bookmaking firm that has been a partner at the Monmouth track since 2012  — and with SugarHouse Casino, a Philadelphia-based casino that just opened for sports betting last week.

Asked if his three partners are direct or indirect competitors, Drazin told NJ Online Gambling, “Everyone is a competitor.”

The battle to sign up NJ sports bettors

“At this point, everybody is overspending on customer acquisition,” Drazin said, pointing to the proliferation of legal online sports betting options that has now reached nine, most of them offering sign-up bonuses to attract players. “You open the Sunday Asbury Park Press, and there’s a full-page ad with FanDuel offering $500 in free bets.

“I’m not complaining, but if we all spend a significant amount, you could get like what you had with DraftKings and FanDuel on daily fantasy sports a few years ago.”

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Of course, Monmouth Park gets an undisclosed portion of the online revenues from Play Sugarhouse and from William Hill (with the latter also having a deal in place with Ocean Resort in Atlantic City). The same will be true once theScore gets its regulatory approvals from the state Division of Gaming Enforcement and the Racing Commission — with an expected launch date of “mid-2019.”

It’s up to theScore to make sure it has all its regulatory ducks in a row. Drazin said some suitors might have had potential issues in getting the proper approvals, but that he is “very excited about theScore.”

That makes sense; if issues with that company arose four to six months from now, Drazin might have had to go back to the table with a smaller number of potential partners, given the speed with which deals are being made.

Skins game

Up to 42 skins could eventually be in play: three apiece for the nine Atlantic City casinos, three racetracks, and the sites of two former racetracks (Garden State Park in Cherry Hill and the Atlantic City Race Course). But David Rebuck, the state’s chief regulator, has said he doesn’t expect every slot to be filled.

The Meadowlands Racetrack has FanDuel both as the title name of its sportsbook and in an online skin deal. PointsBet, an Australian company, recently received approval for a “soft launch” of its skin with the Meadowlands.

So far Freehold Raceway, Tropicana casino, and the owners of the two former track properties have yet to move forward on sports betting — though Freehold is expected to do so next year.

The deal with theScore is for five years, with two additional five-year options for the company if it likes how the arrangement is working out. Monmouth Park — which may soon be receiving $6 million a year in racing pursing supplements from taxpayers — gets an annual minimum guaranteed revenue stream from the betting.

While Drazin is pleased to have drawn so much interest from sports betting companies looking to partnering with him, that doesn’t mean it’s a dream come true.

“I didn’t ask for three skins,” Drazin said. “I’ve always focused on brick-and-mortar, while recognizing that online was also going to be a component. There was talk of two skins each, but someone — I don’t know who — got it changed in the bill to three.”

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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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