With horses set to begin arriving at Monmouth Park on Friday in preparation for opening day on May 5, the Oceanport racetrack remains in limbo regarding its most promising option for a much-needed alternative revenue stream to help with purses and operations.
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court of the United States did not issue a ruling on New Jersey’s seven-year battle, which Monmouth Park has helped push, to legalize sports wagering in the state.
There is a chance a decision could be rendered on Wednesday, when the Court is set to announce another round of decisions. If there is no ruling on Wednesday, the earliest Monmouth Park could get financial relief in the form of sports betting dollars would be next month.
If the state does receive a favorable ruling, allowing for sports wagering at race tracks and casinos, Monmouth Park has indicated it will be accepting wagers within a two-week timeframe.
The track has used $1-million it received for a two-year sponsorship of the Haskell Invitational from William Hill, its partner in sports wagering, to convert an existing area into the William Hill Sports Bar, which could be quickly turned into a sports book. The track had recently expanded the area.
Monmouth Park has been leased from the state by the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association since 2012, when former Gov. Chris Christie privatized the horse racing industry and eliminated the annual subsidies from Atlantic City casinos that were used to supplement purses, in exchange for race tracks not pursuing slot machines.
Since then, the track has struggled to maintain its purse levels amid increased competition from tracks in neighboring states that have casino gaming money to supplement purses and operations.
Sports betting is seen as Monmouth Park’s only real opportunity to gain a sizeable stream of extra revenue. New Jersey voters overwhelmingly voted down a referendum that would have expanded casino gaming outside Atlantic City in Nov. 2016. And while Monmouth Park was not slated to get a casino, it would have shared in the revenues generated at the Meadowlands.
It’s unclear how much Monmouth Park’s share of the sports wagering pie would be, although estimates have been put at upwards of $50-million annually.
Stephen Edelson is an Asbury Park Press columnist: email@example.com; @SteveEdelsonAPP