The plans for a standalone sportsbook at the former Garden State Park are coming together.
In an exclusive interview on Monday with Play NJ, Jack Morris, a controlling member of Cherry Hill Towne Center Partners, said the company is very close to naming an operating partner.
And when we say “close,” August is not out of the question.
“We got [the space] to a point where we had to pick an operating partner, and we are really close,” said Morris.
“Hopefully in the next week or two, we will be able to announce who that partner will be.”
A guessing game for Garden State Park’s partner
Getting back to this mystery partner, Morris obviously cannot elaborate due to the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement rules and regulations.
He did confirm the search is down to two companies that are currently licensed and operating in the Garden State.
So is Malta-based Gaming Innovation Group. The company handles the retail and mobile sports betting for Hard Rock Atlantic City. Morris has an ownership stake in the property so the connection is there.
At this point though, it’s still a guessing game.
And there is still a minor legal hurdle
For those hoping to place a wager before picking up groceries at the nearby Wegmans on Sunday morning, you’ll need a Plan B.
At least for now.
The project has no chance of being ready in time for NFL betting or the season opener between the Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins. And the NFL regular season seems like a stretch, too.
In terms of the exact location of this New Jersey sportsbook project, there is a vacant retail pad (pictured below) directly behind Zinburger at the former racetrack.
Morris confirmed it is the proposed spot, but a recent visit to Cherry Hill Towne Center revealed that minimal work has been done to this point.
There also is that minor detail of ongoing litigation between GS Park Racing, Greenwood Racing, and the developer. One of the bigger issues centers around land usage.
Although gambling no longer takes place at this former racetrack, there is a loophole in NJ sports betting legislation. The former Garden State Park and the closed Atlantic City Race Course can build sports betting facilities if they so desire.
As far as the Cherry Hill standalone sportsbook goes, there could be a ruling soon. But until then, any of the in-the-works plans are on hold. Morris is fully aware of this.
That being said, Morris could not comment on the ongoing lawsuit.
Designing a retail sportsbook in NJ
Visit the 10 land-based sportsbooks around New Jersey, and you will notice each one has its own unique design.
Morris is not ready to talk number of betting windows, kiosks, seats, or monitors just yet. He is leaving that up to the operating partner.
“We really think that’s something that the operator will want to have input in,” Morris said.
“Within a short period we will see some renderings. And you will see the work begin in the space again.”
There is a liquor license, so serving alcohol seems like a realistic possibility, too. But the exact nature of the book is still in the works.
Morris says to be patient
If we flashback to last year, some Atlantic City casinos and NJ racetracks rushed to get at least temporary facilities up and running in time for the 2018 football season.
The first phase of the William Hill space at Ocean, for instance, opened the same day as the property (June 28, 2018).
Borgata, on the other hand, converted its existing racebook into a Race and Sports Book, so it could start taking wagers on June 14, 2018 — the day legal sports betting launched in NJ.
But Morris and his team have no intention of rushing the opening. But a 90-day window from start to finish is not out of the question. Being operational for NFL and college football season is not a dealbreaker.
“Everybody follows [the approach of] can we be open for football season because we know football season is when a lot of people are placing bets,” Morris said.
“I would rather start on the right foot. It doesn’t matter what season. … If we can be open in time for football season, that’s great. But it’s about really providing the best experience for our customers.”
The good news is while you’re waiting for that table at The Cheesecake Factory or picking up items at Home Depot, wagers can be made using any of the 14 NJ betting apps.
By the time football season starts, theScore sportsbook will likely be up and running, too.
Don’t rule out the possibility of three online skins operating under the Cherry Hill license either. In terms of who the potential operators will be, it’s way too soon to say. And Morris again is in no hurry to decide.
“We are speaking to several online providers as well, and we think the mobile [part] will evolve. As time goes on, there is more action and activity,” Morris said.