New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen May Get More Mobile Sports Betting Partners

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What’s the maximum number of online sportsbooks that could come to New Jersey, based on state law?

The conventional wisdom has been 42. That would be because up to three “skins,” which can either be assigned in-house branding or can be used for a mobile sports betting partner’s brand, can go to each of:

  • the nine Atlantic City casinos
  • current racetracks at the Meadowlands, Monmouth Park, and in Freehold
  • the site of two former tracks, Garden State Park in Cherry Hill and Atlantic City Race Course

But according to the minutes of rules adopted by the state Racing Commission that were made public last week, that number may be too low. And if so, that may provide another financial boost to the state’s horsemen.

Additional skins?

The commission had proposed repeal of a section of its bylaws that “codifies the statutory right of each permit holder [operating a racetrack]to immediately obtain a sports wagering license via transactional waiver.” Commission officials described that section as “obsolete” since all three tracks have received their waivers (though Freehold Raceway has yet to act on it).

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But “hold all tickets,” as they tell you at the racetrack when it seems likely that in-race shenanigans might lead the “inquiry” sign to light up so stewards can review the race and possibly demote or disqualify offending horses. Monmouth Park operator Dennis Drazin pointed out that beyond their transactional waiver related to holding a horse racing meet at Monmouth Park, the state’s thoroughbred horsemen also have a separate thoroughbred permit to conduct a separate meet at the Meadowlands, which it plans to do for six weekend dates in October.

“Mr. Drazin believes that the [horsemen are]eligible to apply for a transactional waiver and [are]eligible to establish a sportsbook [in connection with its Meadowlands permit]which carries with it the ability to receive three online skins,” reads the racing commission summary of public comments.

Wait, does that mean another physical sportsbook in the Meadowlands? Relax, FanDuel execs. It seems hard to believe Drazin — who has locked horns with Meadowlands track owner Jeff Gural at times — would want to create a scenario that would make those battle scenes in Avengers movies look like little girls holding a tea party.

Online is where it’s at

The skins, on the other hand, surely would provide added value. These horsemen at Monmouth Park already have deals with William Hill US and Sugarhouse, with a third online sportsbook partnership pending with theScore. The Meadowlands has FanDuel and PointsBet, and a third pending with CG Technology.

Wait, there’s more: “Further, Drazin states that it is possible that ‘the special permit issued for the Far Hills Steeplechase Meet would carry with it the ability to obtain a transactional waiver,'” the summary reads, quoting Drazin, who declined a request by NJ Online Gambling for comment.

Last fall, that century-old meet offered legal wagering on the race for the first time, with a crowd of about 35,000 betting a modest average of about $6 apiece for the day.

So could the thoroughbred horsemen control nine skins all told? That would catch them up with Caesars Entertainment, which operates the Harrah’s, Bally’s, and Caesars casinos in Atlantic City and currently offers online sports betting via the CaesarsCasino brand and 888sport, with more potentially to come.

Garden State Park site: one sportsbook maximum

Both Drazin and Stephen Schrier, an attorney for GS Park racing — which is in the midst of a legal battle over the former Garden State Park site — sought and received assurances that only one sportsbook could be licensed by the state for that site. The commission disagreed with Schrier’s claim, however, that the commission should “only issue a sports wagering license to the last permit holder that conducted a race meet at the eligible former racetracks,” finding no such provision in the state’s sports betting law.

Revenue from additional “skins” would be more good news for the horsemen, who saw Monmouth Park offer the state’s first legal sports bet last June and who recently were approved for a $6 million purse subsidy from the state to boost its annual summer meet.

The horsemen presumably would need the blessing of both the racing commission and the state’s Division of Gaming Enforcement to be in the game for more skins.

Photo by Shutterstock.com

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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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