Garden State Park At Cherry Hill Hits A Roadblock In NJ Sports Betting Plans

Written By Grant Lucas on August 18, 2018 - Last Updated on August 17, 2018

A hitch in the plans of Garden State Park to bring in legalized sports betting has slowed the Cherry Hill racetrack’s quest toward revival.

The New Jersey track has not staged a horse race in 17 years but is still authorized to host NJ sports betting courtesy of legislation signed by Gov. Phil Murphy in June.

However, a lawsuit filed Thursday in Camden recently by Cherry Hill Towne Center Partners LLC, the area’s developer, claims that a gaming firm is overstepping its boundaries by blocking Garden State Park from entering the market.

GS Park Racing, which has had restrictive covenants at the track since 1999, says it holds exclusive rights to accept wagers at the facility. But according to the lawsuit, Cherry Hill Towne Center Partners LLC alleges those restrictions, particularly with sports betting, are “invalid and unenforceable.”

Two sides to the argument at Garden State Park

Two years before the Garden State Park racetrack closed, GS Park Racing (GSPR) obtained restrictive covenants that prohibited “gaming of any sort … at any time by any party other than (GS Park Racing),” according to the lawsuit. The gaming company has previously stated that it will “seek enforcement of the restriction” if any other party engaged in gambling at the property.

“GSPR attaches significant importance and value to the rights it holds under the restrictive covenants,” Roberto Rivera-Soto, an attorney for GSPR, wrote in a June 22 letter to the Cherry Hill developer.

The lawsuit, though, claims that regulated sports wagering “could not have been contemplated” when GSPR obtained those restrictions. As such, the Cherry Hill developer wants a ban that “does not prohibit the newly permitted sports wagering on the GSP property.”

Per the NJ sports betting bill, Garden State Park is eligible to offer regulated wagering as it is a “former racetrack” that staged a horse race within 15 years prior to the effective date of the original 2014 bill.

So long as the action is held on “the land contained within the racecourse oval,” according to the bill, Garden State Park is authorized to accept wagers.

Cherry Hill Towne Center Partners intend to have its sportsbook “within the oval of the former Garden State Park racecourse,” according to the lawsuit. On the flip side, the lawsuit claims, GSPR, which is outside the oval, “cannot qualify for use as a sports wagering facility under New Jersey law.”

As a result, the lawsuit says GSPR’s restrictive covenants are flawed because there is no end date and represent “an unreasonable restraint on trade.”

Garden State Park Racing refused to build a parlor

Initially, GS Park Racing planned to construct an off-track betting parlor at the property.

No action has been taken, however, as the firm does not want to create competition for its Pennsylvania-based parent company, Greenwood Racing, according to the lawsuit.

By not making any moves toward such a project, the lawsuit alleges, GSPR “waived or abandoned the protections of the declaration as they have failed to develop any off-track wagering facilities on the (Cherry Hill) property.”

“Neither GSPR nor any of its affiliates has any interest in developing an off-track wagering facility at the (former track) or in the vicinity,” according to the suit.

Now known as Towne Place at Garden State Park, the area is home to a variety of stores, restaurants, and housing.

Should the GSPR ban be lifted for sports betting, and should Garden State Park roll out its operation, it will join Meadowlands Racetrack and Monmouth Park as the only NJ racetracks to feature regulated sports betting.

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Grant Lucas

Grant Lucas is a longtime sportswriter who has covered high school, collegiate, and professional levels. A graduate of Linfield College in McMinnville, Grant now focuses his attention on the growing NJ online gambling and sports betting scene.

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