How A Visit To A Former NJ Racetrack Revealed Some Sportsbook Secrets, But Not All

The former New Jersey racetrack is now a shopping district in Cherry Hill, but a visit to Garden State Park shows a likely spot for a future sportsbook.

Cherry Hill doesn’t exactly come to mind as a spot for a future sportsbook.

And we’re not talking about the 14 sports betting apps. Because all of them work perfectly fine around town.

This conversation centers around actual sports betting operators based in New Jersey.

Cherry Hill isn’t exactly Hoboken where DraftKings recently unveiled its new gaming hub with great views of New York City.

However, via a quick drive, I discovered there are three local ties to this booming $3 billion-plus NJ sports betting industry.

The not-so-secret Garden State Park sportsbook

Yes, there is a real possibility Cherry Hill could become home to the state’s first standalone sportsbook.

But don’t expect to be checking out the NFL point spreads before grabbing a bite at the nearby Zinburger this football season.

Garden State Park’s developer continues to be tied up in a lengthly legal battle with the track’s former owners. The big issue is whether or not a retail operation can be built where the former racetrack oval existed.

The latest twist in this saga actually triggered an idea.

I decided to scout out the potential space. Sure enough, there is a nice-sized vacant spot directly behind the burger joint.

standalone sportsbook cherry hill new jersey

Now, this is the spot I found on my visit; it is not THE spot. Nothing is confirmed. But it seems the most likely as it is within the old racing oval.

Granted, there were no coming soon signs. And contractors seemed to be taking a very long lunch break.

But I found it odd that this random ladder was just laying around.

garden state park sportsbook

If there are illustrations of the space, they have not been made public yet. The most anyone has seen of the concept is a blueprint of the floorplan from SOSH Architects, available at ROI-NJ.

The developer is not talking due to the ongoing litigation. So the operator behind the sportsbook plans is still a mystery.

Well, hello Stars Group

But wait, there’s more.

My walk around Market Place & Towne Place at Garden State Park revealed an unexpected (but well-known) name.

It seems The Stars Group has its NJ office hidden within this shopping and residential complex. It’s the parent company of BetStars NJ and PokerStars NJ.

cherry hill towne place nj sports betting

Do not try and search for it from the outside as there are no signs. I found them via the list of tenants in building 921.

betstars nj cherry hill office

And there is no front desk reception area.

A quick search on The Stars Group website revealed the company does have job openings at its Cherry Hill office. All three positions have to do with the soon-to-be-rebranded Fox Bet NJ sports betting app (which will soon replace BetStars).

Meet their neighbor, William Hill

If you continue heading west toward Philadelphia, you will likely drive right past one of William Hill’s NJ offices. It’s hidden within an expansive business complex called Executive Campus.

If you pull into the parking lot, good luck finding the office.

The buildings are numbered, but getting the actual list of businesses requires going into the lobby. The truth is, this writer took the shortcut by sending an email to William Hill’s offices in Las Vegas.

william hill office building cherry hill

However, the only business clearly identifiable from the outside of 3 Executive Campus is Lockheed Martin.

But without an appointment, I didn’t venture further than the lobby. Then again, not much to see here, folks. The 20 people based at this office are primarily the customer support team.

When a problem arises while using the William Hill app, you might just be talking to someone in Cherry Hill.

So there is no need to waste time driving through this complex. If you really want to see what the company is all about, take a drive to Monmouth Park, Ocean Casino Resort, or Tropicana AC. William Hill operates all three retail locations.

Which one will be the headliner at Garden State Park?

But all this sleuthing had me wondering: Could a fourth William Hill retail spot be in the works? Or will it be the first Fox Bet-branded standalone sportsbook in New Jersey?

Or maybe the Cherry Hill connection of both companies means absolutely nothing and Garden State Park has something else up its sleeves.

The answer could come before the Philadelphia Eagles soar to the 2020 Super Bowl. But all depends on that lawsuit that’s currently keeping most things at a standstill for Cherry Hill.

For now, any of the eight sportsbooks in AC are ready for football season with plenty of seats. And there are those apps…

Garden State Park Still Champing At The Bit For A Standalone Sportsbook

Cherry Hill Towne Partners filed a legal brief this week in its attempt to open a standalone sportsbook at the former Garden State Park in New Jersey.

The ongoing saga of Cherry Hill’s desire for a standalone sportsbook in New Jersey continues.

In response to a judge’s request, Cherry Hill Towne Partners, LLC, filed a legal brief on Monday in the latest attempt to open a sportsbook at the former Garden State Park racetrack.

Brown & Connery, LLP, is the firm representing Cherry Hill in its ongoing legal battle against GS Park Racing and Greenwood Racing.

One of the bigger issues centers around land usage.

However, attorney William Tambussi argues that “the state’s licensing requirements must be considered independently of any alleged restrictions upon the land.”

“Simply put, the rules and regulations governing licensing eligibility are completely divorced from the restrictive covenant at issue in this case, and should have no bearing on whether Plaintiff is entitled to a sports wagering license.”

You can read the full document sent to Judge Renee Marie Bumb here.

No secret about Cherry Hill’s sports betting plans

Jack Morris, a controlling member of CHTC, has shared small details about the vacant space at Market Place & Towne Place at Garden State Park.

The proposed site is located in the oval of the former racetrack, as required by NJ sports betting legislation.

Being a part-owner of Hard Rock Casino in Atlantic City, Morris is familiar with the licensing process.

The casino launched its mobile and retail sportsbook operations earlier this year with partner Gaming Innovation Group. Plus, additional sports betting apps from Unibet NJ and Bet365 NJ are coming soon.

In other words, Morris is ready to get the ball rolling at GSP, too.

And a sportsbook partner?

According to the court documents, the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement has conducted a preliminary site inspection of the proposed facility.

“… CHTC has commenced the build-out of the facility and is prepared to complete the build-out of the facility.”

The names of potential partners have not been revealed… yet. But CHTC is in “active discussions” with two sports wagering operators.

Both companies are fully licensed by DGE and operating in the Garden State.

For the record, the Stars Group (aka BetStars NJ) and William Hill have offices in Cherry Hill and already have a huge presence in online and retail betting in NJ.

But to be fair, they are two of several companies that could be in the running.

The standalone facility will be located behind Zinburger and near the Cheesecake Factory and Nordstrom Rack. It could be operational in approximately 90 to 120 days, according to the filing.

That means we won’t see anything in time for football season.

Not so fast, Jack

The GSP retail betting story is one that’s been tied up in legal limbo for months.

GS Park Racing and Greenwood Racing, the defendants, want to prevent CHTC from “opening and operating a sports wagering lounge or engaging in the business of sports wagering at or within GSP property.”

The former owners claim that they have full rights to deciding when or if a sportsbook will open at the former racetrack.

The last live horse race at Garden State Park took place in 2001.

But New Jersey sports betting law includes a licensing loophole in which the state’s two shuttered racetracks are eligible to apply for a sports betting license.

The old Atlantic City racetrack is the other site, but it’s been quiet as a church mouse on that front.

NJ sportsbook battle lines are drawn

Garden State Park is located fewer than 10 miles from Philadelphia. Adding a new sportsbook would certainly make things easier for retail customers who live or work nearby.

Garden State Park Racing, the track’s former operator, and Greenwood Racing, which owns and operates Parx Casino in Pennsylvania, have different views on the issue.

But only one side will win eventually.

Over in Pennsylvania, Parx recently launched its sports betting app and online casino. Plus it has its own retail sportsbook up and running.

As to whether or not retail sports betting comes to Cherry Hill, call it a work in progress.

Until then, wagering is available on 14 sports betting apps.

Photo courtesy of Towne Place at Garden State Park.

Hold Your Horses: Proposed Garden State Park Standalone Sportsbook In Legal Limbo

A letter from GSP Racing seeks to stop Cherry Hill Towne Center from opening a Garden State Park NJ sportsbook while the lawsuit is pending.

On Friday, details emerged of plans to transform Garden State Park Racetrack (GSP) in Cherry Hill into the state’s first standalone sports betting property.

But there’s a problem: The story first reported by ROI-NJ triggered the ongoing litigation alarms.

NJGamblingSites.com received a copy of a letter dated March 1 from Ballard Saphr LLP (the law firm representing GS Park Racing, L.P. and Greenwood Racing) to Judge Renee Marie Bumb.

The defendants are part of an ongoing case fighting plaintiff Cherry Hill Towne Ctr. Partners LLC from “opening and operating a sports wagering lounge or engaging in the business of sports wagering at or within GSP Property.”

The letter references the ROI-NJ article specifically and requests the court to step in and stop GSP from moving forward with its sportsbook plans.

“If the information in this online article is correct, plaintiff is engaging in self-help in the face of a pending motion for a preliminary injunction. In those circumstances, we thought it would be best to bring the matter to the Court’s attention, so the Court can address as best as the Court deems fit.

“Of course, moving defendants stand ready to assist in aiding the Court in entering the requested preliminary injunction and in enforcing its terms.”

To read the full letter, click here.

The story mentions the Garden State Park sportsbook “could be open in the next 90 days.” But based on this letter, and the ongoing legal battle, that seems like a highly unlikely possibility.

NJ sports betting plans + legal issues

The proposed NJ sports betting facility would include 142 seats, but additional details pertaining to the overall size and potential partner(s) have not been made public.

Jack Morris, who is a part owner of the Hard Rock Atlantic City, and Joe Marino are the people behind the transformation project. SOSH Architects is handling the design component.

But the legal battle over sports betting at the former racetrack continues to be a lingering issue. The latest roadblock dates back to 2018 when sports betting in New Jersey first launched.

What the legal battle at GSP is all about

In a nutshell, the dispute is between Cherry Hill Towne Center Partners (the developers) and Garden State Park Racing (the former racetrack operator).

Cherry Hill Towne Center Partners filed a lawsuit in August claiming that a gaming firm is overstepping its boundaries by blocking Garden State Park from entering the market.

GS Park Racing, on the other hand, claims it has had restrictive covenants at the track since 1999 and says it holds exclusive rights to accept wagers at the facility.

More to the point, the lawsuit claims that legal sports betting could not have been part of the original plan for the racetrack.

But according to the lawsuit, the plaintiff alleges those restrictions, particularly with sports betting, are “invalid and unenforceable.”

The case remains open and that is where things have stood until Friday’s news.

Horse racing at Garden State Park

The former Garden State Park, once home to the Jersey Derby, is located off of Route 70, one of the roads commuters travel to get to and from Philadelphia.

The racetrack itself was once home to both harness and thoroughbred races but experienced its share of ups and downs.

Here are a few key dates in GSP history:

  • Opening day: July 7, 1942
  • Fire destroys GSP: April 14, 1977
  • Garden State Park reopens: April 1, 1985
  • Last race: May 3, 2001

Ironically, back before GSP closed for good, there was talk of adding slot machines to NJ racetracks, but the bill got vetoed by then Gov. Christine Todd Whitman. 

Today, the old track, grandstand, and clubhouse are distant memories. The area is now known as Market Place & Towne Place at Garden State Park.

Instead of betting on the ponies, customers visit the area to shop and eat. The land also includes residential housing.

Does a sportsbook make sense at Garden State Park?

So how can Garden State Park be eligible for a sports betting license in NJ if it’s now more a shopping center than a racetrack?

Looking at the lay of the land, opening a sports betting facility in the middle of a family-friendly retail and residential complex may seem out of place.

However, NJ sports betting law includes a licensing loophole that extends beyond Atlantic City casinos and active racetracks in New Jersey.

That means the two shuttered racetracks (Atlantic City Racetrack being the other) are eligible for a sports betting license, too.

Under the rules, the former racetrack needs to have held horse racing in the past 15 years of the law’s passage (2014). With GSP’s last race taking place in 2001, it just makes the cut.

If it did open a standalone sportsbook, GSP would join a very crowded market.

The eight Atlantic City sportsbooks are located walking distance from the casino floor and the two at the racetracks are paired with horse racing. And thanks to NJ online sports betting, people can place bets using the DraftKings SportsbookFanDuel Sportsbook, or their pick of more than a dozen sportsbook apps in the state.

The nearby Philadelphia market is home to four retail sportsbooks.

But who should get the license and will such a standalone sportsbook ever happen?

The former racetrack operator and current development firm are taking their respective cases to court. Until then, any sports betting plans are in a holding pattern.

First Standalone NJ Sports Betting Complex In The Works At Garden State Park

Garden State Park hopes to get into the New Jersey sports betting market with a planned standalone sportsbook at the former racetrack in 90 days.

New Jersey will soon be home to a new sports betting facility owned by two real estate moguls.

First reported by ROI-NJ, real estate duo Jack Morris and Joe Marino plan to transform the former Garden State Park Racetrack (GSP) in Cherry Hill, NJ, into the states first standalone sports betting property.

Morris is also part owner of Hard Rock, one of eight casinos in Atlantic City with sports betting.

Here is what Morris had to say:

“Former racetracks have the ability to have a sports betting facility, as long as it’s within the oval of what the racetrack is. Clearly, if you look at the plan, all of the property that’s within the oval is owned and controlled by myself and Joe Marino.”

Garden State’s sportsbook operator and proposed timeline

The first of its kind facility could be up and running in 90 days, according to Morris.

Additionally, while an operator has not been announced, Morris said the decision is down to two and a selection could be around the corner.

“All of them are in the business, some that we have talked to are in the business presently in New Jersey, and some are not,” he said.

Morris said the NJ Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) has been out to the site multiple times. However, the DGE could not be reached for comment.

For its part, Garden State Park is still dealing with a lawsuit between the facility and Cherry Hill Towne Center Partners LLC. At the crux of the dispute is the location of the sportsbook.

Per New Jersey law, Garden State Park is eligible to offer regulated wagering as it is a “former racetrack” that staged a horse race within 15 years prior to the effective date of the original 2014 bill.

Not just a place for NJ sports betting

Morris said he wants the facility to be an “entertainment destination,” where guests can not only bet on games but come for drinks and events as well.

Here’s more from Morris:

“It’s a nice facility, it’s very roomy. It gives us the ability to test the market. If it’s a market where we have what I think will be thousands of people that will be coming here, we can enlarge it. We have plenty of space to do it.”

“We are creating our own concept, and it’s something I think we will end up building and creating where we can do this in other destinations around the country.”

SOSH Architects, which has experience in the casino industry, will design the 142-seat facility.

What’s next for Garden State Park sportsbook?

Currently, NJ sports betting is home to 10 retail sportsbooks and 13 online sportsbooks. So Garden State Park will be joining an already crowded market.

The Hard Rock Sportsbook (online and retail) launched days before Super Bowl Sunday, generating $25,235 in sports betting revenue for January.

That same week, Resorts and Golden Nugget opened their online sports betting sites.

Considering Morris is invested in Hard Rock AC, one could speculate that the casino’s sports betting partner, Gaming Innovation Group (GiG) could be in the running to secure operating rights.

However, considering the lucrative partnerships between sportsbook operators and professional sports leagues, it might be wise to choose a partner with an extensive network of connections.

  • NHL + FanDuel
  • NJ Devils + William Hill
  • NBA + BetStars (The Stars Group), FanDuel

While DraftKings has yet to partner with a professional sports league, the company has been quietly establishing its dominance as one of the top online sportsbooks in New Jersey.

Its recent Caesars deal pushes it into the rest of the US. DraftKings, too, could be a possibility as Garden State Park sportsbook’s partner.