Post time draws near for the race to upgrade New Jersey’s sports-betting persona.
The gates open early in 2022. And when Caesars Entertainment and Monmouth Park cross the finish line with their shared project in 2023, a prominent new face will grace the gambling stage.
The gaming and horse racing partners plan a $15 million, state-of-the-art wagering, dining, and race-viewing palace at the storied Oceanport facility.
The spanking-new complex will stand about 15,000 square feet, contain huge video boards, major restaurants and seating for roughly 250 patrons. Throw in 25 kiosks, a raised dining area, and an outdoor deck overlooking the track.
The concept is transformative in the NJ sports betting landscape, and has precedent.
William Hill, later rebranded as Caesars Sportsbook, opened the first ever book inside a sports arena in March. An 18,000 square-foot, two-story betting complex sits inside Capital One Arena. That’s the home of the Washington Wizards, Washington Capitals, Washington Mystics, and a bevy of bettors.
The book has wall-to-wall LEDs, eating establishments, and DC sports memorabilia. It enables patrons to watch and wager on every major sport. The synergy is astounding: sports leagues and sportsbooks, longtime adversaries sharing a venue to cross-promote each other.
Monmouth Park’s Caesars Expansion
Dennis Drazin, the CEO and Chairman of Darby Development, which operates Monmouth Park, indicates that Caesars and Monmouth hope to start construction in February or March. It will take about a year after that to complete the complex.
The partners eye some potential 2023 launch dates.
One is the Super Bowl (a relative long shot) and the other is the opening of the live Monmouth Park racing season, presumably in May. That stands a strong chance to happen. The timeline may be determined by supply-chain issues.
This is a potent business exacta box. Caesars has its footprint in the fertile New Jersey online sports betting market, which just set its second national record in two months.
Caesars has benefitted from New Jersey gamblers wagering a whopping $1.3 billion in October, up from a record $1.01 billion in September.
Two months, $2 billion with a B, and one long-term optimistic vision.
Monmouth Park, meanwhile, basks in the national horse-racing spotlight each year with the $1 million Haskell Stakes. Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert and 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah are among the famous champions at this track.
Monmouth Park also hosted the multi-million dollar 2007 Breeders Cup, the biggest event in the entire industry.
Caesars and Monmouth have literally found something to build on, sharing project expenses, operating costs and profits.
“From the Caesars perspective, I believe it is their opportunity to build a flagship, a grand venue that represents their product, their image and their branding here in New Jersey,” Drazin told NJGS. “It becomes a model for other places throughout the United States. They have been doing a great job promoting their brand. You can’t watch TV without seeing their commercials. They have made their brand very attractive.”
“From the Monmouth Park perspective, it is a huge opportunity to have a top-rated company come in. It is a step into the future, the billing of our brand and a good way to couple our involvement with Caesars into something impressive and amazing for our clientele.”
Updated Sports Betting At Monmouth Park
It is the future indeed, revealing a monumental leap from the past. Racetracks that once viewed casinos as adversaries have morphed into partnerships with them.
The process started with racinos a few years back, advanced gradually as legal sports took hold and will soon have a massive convergence of racing, casinos, and sports gambling at Monmouth Park.
“A lot of our facility, going back to 1946, is getting dated,” Drazin added about Monmouth Park’s opening year. “To have a first-class, spanking new, first-class sportsbook is a great advancement for us.”
“It will be well-laid out and impress people,” Drazin added about the book, which will have a raised dining area, main dining area, big kitchen, approximately 170 indoor gaming-seat positions, 52 raised dining seats, along with 26 bar seats.
The new book targets a younger demographic.
Patrons can bet the live Monmouth Park races, watch them outside, and come back inside to gamble on other sporting events. They can also obtain a meal and a drink. Couples can plan an afternoon or evening out, based around the book.
The food and beverage component is important. It mirrors the gaming industry’s use of high-end branded restaurants to forge a revenue niche beyond casino games.
That concept now expands in the mobile technology era, enabling foot traffic, betting kiosks, and phone wagering in one place. The book will be a strong complement to the horse-racing program and could do enormous business on an NFL Sunday.
Cashing In His Own Bet
Drazin observes an interesting tieback to his relationship with William Hill and its former head, Joe Asher.
About 10 years ago, Monmouth Park envisioned a rich operating relationship with the bookmaker. Between the parties, a multi-million dollar investment was made in a sports bar and track renovations.
Like some Atlantic City casinos that built wagering areas to anticipate the sportsbook era that never came in the 1990’s, Drazin and Asher had made a large up-front gamble.
For years, with hurdles facing legalized betting, the wager looked like it would not pay off.
But Drazin and the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association joined others to lead the multi-year fight that got PASPA overturned in 2018.
Now, he stands to benefit with a super-sized book on his own grounds.
Drazin recalled, “There were times when everybody counted us down and out.”
“There were many times when there were different opinions about whether we should keep spending money to litigate the case. There were times I was begged to stop, even by friends.”
Drazin instead doubled down in December of 2017, convinced that PASPA repeal was coming. Monmouth Park invested close to $4.5 million in additional money to renovate the big grandstand.
“It was probably the largest bet I ever made,” he laughed.
Now it’s about to pay.
Drazin received three more pieces of satisfaction.
One, Monmouth Park made history by taking the first legal sports wager by Governor Phil Murphy on June 14, 2018.
Two, he got into the Sports Betting Hall of Fame in 2019.
Three, the Caesars group is ready to realize his vision for this property on an even larger scale.
While that unfolds, New Jersey gamblers and residents will see an enticement to visit Monmouth Park.
AP Photo/Wayne Parry