NJ Sports Betting Could Breathe New Life Into Former Atlantic City Race Course

There’s another race course in New Jersey that’s getting a little attention.

New Jersey Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo whipped up speculation of the revival of horse racing last week. He said the now-shuttered Atlantic City Race Course in Mays Landing would be worth considering for a resurrection in the wake of the end of PASPA and the beginning of NJ sports betting.

“It could be a multi-use facility here; the shopping, restaurants, entertainment. If Atlantic City racecourse wants to continue that could be part of the conversation,” Mazzeo said in a video interview.
“Also, putting sports betting with that I guess it makes it a little more valuable as a selling piece. The future could be really bright here, but it has to be well-thought out and well planned.”

Atlantic City Race Course closed its doors in 2015

On Jan. 9, 2015, the race course’s owners, Greenwood ACRA, announced in a letter they were closing their track.

Joe Wilson, president of the ownership group at the time, said the track had to shut down operations because of the trying economic times. In 2014, five NJ casinos closed, marking the beginning of a dark season in Atlantic City’s history.

“We regret to announce that we must close Atlantic City Race Course immediately due to continuous business decline in the industry, the current regional economic climate and the absence of alternative revenue opportunities,” Wilson said in the release. “Most importantly, we would like to thank our dedicated employees and the supporters of Atlantic City Race Course who have contributed to its proud legacy in the racing industry over the years.”

The facility closed its doors six days later.

Race course has rich history

Though the track couldn’t weather the gruesome blow that was the 2014 casino contraction, like its casino counterparts, it exited South Jersey with a substantial collection of lore.

According to the Press of Atlantic City, the course’s inaugural Opening Day celebration in 1946 was the largest of its kind in horse track history.

The track was the site of a legendary three-day rock concert in the summer of 1969, hosting Santana, Janis Joplin, Creedence Clearwater Revival and Jimi Hendrix among other well-known performers.

According to the Atlantic City Weekly, many locals were disgruntled about the concert because they were worried “it would tarnish the image of the region.”

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What’s next for Atlantic City Race Course?

Philly.com noted that the demise of the track, as well as other New Jersey tracks, came in 2007 as Pennsylvania and New York tracks used higher purses to woo jockeys and breeders.

Those higher purses came from revenues the out-of-state tracks earned from on-property slot machines. Philly.com went on to reference the 2008 New Jersey Senate decision in which horse tracks were awarded $90 million for not installing video lottery machines “that resemble slot machines.”

This move was, no doubt, an effort to protect the slots revenues of Atlantic City casinos.

The casino question is certainly as pertinent now as it was in 2008. And with the advent of legal sports betting, there’s a slim chance that the now-dilapidated race course can pull itself out of the ashes.

Is it possible for a race track to open and remain profitable in Atlantic City?

The track’s location outside of Atlantic City could certainly provide an advantage when it comes to capturing traffic headed to AC from the west.

About the Author

J.R. Duren

A three-time winner of the Florida Press Club Excellence in Journalism contest, J.R. Duren works as a freelance writer with a focus on the NJ online gambling and online casino industry. He writes for a number of publications, including Bespoke Post, Our Amazing Norway, Barcelona Metropolitan, Snooth, and the Villages Daily Sun.