Meadowlands Racetrack has entered the fast lane to join legalized sports betting in New Jersey. And in the driver’s seat — and primed to benefit from slow legislation in New York — is track owner and CEO Jeff Gural.

With NJ sports betting in full swing in the Garden State, Meadowlands has set a target date to get in on the action: July 15. And when the racetrack opens its doors to accept single-game wagering, the facility could enjoy a boom in business from its neighbors to the west.

Meadowlands NJ sports betting joins the party

Since the US Supreme Court struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act in May, New Jersey casinos and racetracks have been champing at the bit to get in on sports betting.

Monmouth Park racetrack and Borgata in Atlantic City went live with single-game wagering earlier this month. Now, Meadowlands is ready to roll out its sports betting services.

Initially, when the East Rutherford racetrack inked its partnership with bookmaker Betfair US earlier this month, the target date was “by the start of the NFL” season, according to Betfair CEO Kip Levin. (Gural, however, had indicated before that he would like to have his sportsbook operating within a month of the deal.)

If it is a fast-tracked opening — and even if it’s not — it is no coincidence, and the Meadowlands sits in a no-lose situation.

Racetrack reaps rewards of NY stumbling

Opening the doors to a sportsbook will not only attract New Jersey bettors. Thanks to a missed opportunity last week, Meadowlands will surely be welcoming in customers from the Empire State.

The New York Senate and Assembly both pushed bills through their respective houses last week. Lawmakers, however, did not reach a consensus on either. As a result, state legislators missed their Wednesday deadline to adopt sports betting regulations. Barring a special session, New York will not revisit the issue until 2019.

And Gural could not contain his excitement for that legislative fumble.

“New York did me such a favor by not passing sports betting,” Gural told the Associated Press. “That leaves me the entirety of New York City, Long Island, Westchester County. There are 15 million people that live within 20 miles of the Meadowlands. They gave me a tremendous gift.”

A leg up for Meadowlands

The financial future of Meadowlands had been murky, at best, for some time. For a number of years, subsidies from the New Jersey government allowed the racetrack — as well as others in the state — to stay afloat.

But when then-Gov. Chris Christie dissolved that program in 2011, Meadowlands was scrambling for alternative sources of revenue.

Even now, NJ sports betting is on a collision course with a potential stay in wagering. The Garden State government, pending an approved budget beforehand, will be shut down June 30.

State Sen. Chris Brown has urged Gov. Phil Murphy to keep casinos and racetracks open should there be such an event. Per New Jersey law, casinos and racetracks would be forced to close if a government shutdown lasts more than seven days, like what occurred 12 years ago.

“The 2006 shutdown of the casinos during the July 4th weekend was devastating,” Brown told the Press of Atlantic City. “It’s unbelievable to me that as our gaming industry is turning the corner and improving our local economy by putting families back to work, Trenton would force the casinos to shut their doors during the busiest time of the year.”

A signed executive order from Murphy designating casino and racetrack employees as “essential” would prevent those properties from shutting down. Christie did just that in 2010.

Should Murphy play eleventh-hour hero, the Meadowlands — seven years after struggling to keep its head above water — could be ready to rise from the ashes.

Grant Lucas

About

Grant Lucas is a longtime sportswriter who has covered the high school, collegiate, and professional levels. A graduate of Linfield College in McMinnville, Grant has covered games and written features and columns surrounding prep sports, Linfield, and Oregon State athletics and the Portland Trail Blazers throughout his career.