Is There A Light At The End Of The Tunnel For Garden State Park’s Sportsbook Plans?

Written By Martin Derbyshire on August 7, 2019

The question of whether a standalone sportsbook can open up at the former Garden State Park racetrack in Southern New Jersey could be answered later this month.

A New Jersey judge should issue a ruling in the case of developer Cherry Hill Towne Center Partners versus Greenwood Racing in August.

Cherry Hill is hoping to open an NJ sports betting facility where the Garden State Park racetrack once stood. Greenwood is the former owner of Garden State Park. It remains opposed to anyone else taking bets there.

Restrictive covenants at Garden State Park

The crux of the issue revolves around who has the rights to accept wagers at the former racetrack: Greenwood or the Cherry Hill developers.

Back in August 2018, when sportsbooks were just getting off the ground, the Cherry Hill developers started making rumblings in that direction.

But GS Park Racing, now Greenwood Racing, has long claimed it holds restrictive covenants.

While the site is now a retail, restaurant, and residential housing complex, the developers back in March appeared to be moving forward with standalone sportsbook plans.

Greenwood Racing quickly sent a letter to Judge Renee Marie Bumb, stating that the developers were out of line as Garden State Park was currently in the midst of litigation.

But NJ sports betting law says yes

There’s nothing legally preventing Cherry Hill from moving forward with a sports betting facility on the property.

The NJ sports betting laws passed in 2014 allow for Atlantic City casinos, active NJ racetracks, and two closed racetracks, including Atlantic City Racetrack and Garden State Park, to apply for sports betting licenses. The former racetracks had to have held a race there in the 15 years before the law was passed.

Garden State Park held its last race on May 3, 2001, making it barely eligible.

The question is, who has the right to take sports bets there?

Greenwood claims it retains exclusive rights to accept any and all wagers on the property. Cherry Hill says legal sports betting was not a part of the equation when Greenwood was granted exclusive rights. According to Cherry Hill, that renders those rights invalid and unenforceable.

Cherry Hill has completely redeveloped the site into a mixed residential and commercial zone. Therefore, it figures it has the right to do what it wants there.

Already in the sports betting business

Confusing things is the fact that both sides are already in on the emerging legal US sports betting business elsewhere.

Greenwood Racing has launched a sportsbook at Parx Casino in Pennsylvania. It also opened two more at two off-track betting facilities it owns and operates in the Philadelphia area.

In the meantime, Jack Morris is one of the principals behind Cherry Hill Towne Center Partners. He is also part owner of Hard Rock Atlantic City, which opened up a retail sportsbook earlier this year.

Last month, Cherry Hill filed papers claiming it was close to finalizing a deal with a company already operating an NJ sportsbook. Cherry Hill also wrote it should be able to apply for an NJ sports betting license regardless of Greenwood’s claims.

Greenwood argued this week that Cherry Hill should not be able to apply for a license without consideration of the lawsuit. Plus, it wants the right to oppose it.

Cherry Hill Towne Center Partners says it could have the sportsbook up and running within 90 to 120 days. The site is just off Route 70, less than 10 miles from Philadelphia.

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Martin Derbyshire

Martin Derbyshire has more than 10 years of experience reporting on the online poker, online gambling, and land-based casino industries for a variety of publications including Bluff Magazine, PokerNews, and PokerListings. He has traveled extensively, attending tournaments and interviewing major players in the gambling world.

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