Atlantic City Race Course in New Jersey suffered the fate of many racetracks across the country. The last horse crossed the finish line in 2015, and the land has been sitting vacant ever since, just waiting for a new lease on life.
Hamilton Township, home to the racetrack, recently prioritized redeveloping the land.
Greenwood ACRA, the owner of the Atlantic City Race Course since 2001, entered into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the township to create a jointly derived development plan that benefits the area.
Some are speculating the area is primed and ready for a new standalone retail sportsbook. Unfortunately, it may be a little late for that by the time that idea becomes a reality.
Opening a sportsbook is not always the answer
NJ gambling laws require sportsbooks to be tied to one of nine Atlantic City casinos or one of two racetracks:
- Monmouth Park
There is a caveat that shuttered racetracks can apply for a betting license if the last race held on the site was within 15 years since the sports betting law was passed. The other caveat? The sportsbook must be located inside the physical oval of track.
That provides an opening for Atlantic City Race Course to build a sportsbook.
Most sportsbooks begin operating as a complement to existing business offerings. However, not one licensee in New Jersey opened a book as its sole business.
To be fair, Atlantic City Race Course will likely build a business around a standalone sportsbook, but is that enough?
The opening of new retail and sportsbook apps in NJ frequently makes headlines. That makes complete sense since New Jersey led the charge to open the door to legal sports betting in the US in the first place.
It is hard to say what market saturation looks like for NJ sports betting — it is only 18 months old, after all.
Surely by the time the dream of a standalone sportsbook turns into the reality of one for Greenwood, the market will be well-established. Honestly, many believe it already is.
Customers will already have established routines come game day by betting at their local sportsbook or have accounts established with their favorite online sportsbook.
Such a late entry into the market for Greenwood will be a tough hill to climb for a company that doesn’t have strong brand-name recognition.
Sportsbooks and racetracks are a winning combination
Some would argue the success of Meadowlands Racetrack and Monmouth Park are reasons Greenwood should be considering a sportsbook at Atlantic City Race Course.
It is true, Meadowlands and Monmouth both turn in strong sports betting performances month after month. In fact, Meadowlands is currently the New Jersey sports betting revenue leader.
That tough hill to climb mentioned above could change based on the sports betting platform that Greenwood chooses to run its sports betting operations.
The problem stems from a lack of potential operators. Companies looking for a path to New Jersey most likely already have it.
The other reason Meadowlands and Monmouth Park are successful is their location. Meadowlands is part of the Meadowlands Sports Complex, home to the New York Jets and New York Giants, and is located across the river from New York.
Monmouth Park, while not in a fancy sports complex, has one important location distinction — it is a 90-minute drive to Atlantic City.
The same can’t be said for Atlantic City Race Course. The track is located a short 25-minute drive from the Boardwalk and AC casinos. That alone should cause Greenwood to pause before committing to the investment.
Why would a sports bettor stop 25 minutes shy of the East Coast’s sports betting mecca? The reality is they probably wouldn’t. The choice of books, watch parties, and casino games are just too tempting to get out of the car a few minutes early.
Greenwood taking issue with another NJ track
Greenwood has been busy fighting against the opening of a sportsbook at another closed track in New Jersey, Garden State Park in Cherry Hill.
It claims it has an agreement that ensures exclusive rights to opening a sportsbook on the property.
And for the sportsbook to be legit, it would have to sit inside of the original track. Unfortunately, the track is no longer there thanks to the mixed-use development that sits on the property.
Additionally, the original track is not on the 10 acres Greenwood owns. Its parcel is nearby. Even so, a judge in the case ruled in Greenwood’s favor.
The ongoing development of the area seemed like a perfect spot for a sportsbook. So why doesn’t Greenwood want one?
Well, Greenwood also owns Parx Casino and Racing in Pennsylvania. The proximity to its PA sportsbook could be one of the major reasons Greenwood fought against the Cherry Hill site.
Will Greenwood eventually open a standalone sportsbook?
The possibility of Greenwood opening a standalone sportsbook to provide sports betting in NJ is speculation at this point. And so is the opinion that it won’t.
It would make more sense to open a sportsbook in a less-than-ideal location if it was your entry point to online sports betting in New Jersey. But that’s not the case for Greenwood.
Greenwood and its online gaming partner GAN recently launched Parx online casino in New Jersey, bringing a second PA casino online in the Garden State. It’s GAN’s partnership with Ocean Casino Resort that gave Greenwood its in.
Does a standalone sportsbook at Atlantic City Race Course make sense for Greenwood? No, for several reasons.
- The location is less than ideal.
- It will be years before a sportsbook is ready, and market saturation is a possibility.
- Greenwood is already offering online gambling in New Jersey.
Maybe the MOU between Greenwood and Hamilton Township to create a redevelopment plan for the vacant land is just a desire to do something — anything — with the land that has been empty for nearly five years.
Just because a gambling company owns the land, doesn’t mean the plans will include a sportsbook. Of course, it doesn’t mean it won’t either.