New Jersey’s Monmouth Park delays sportsbook launch


monmouth-park-sportsbook-delayNew Jersey’s Monmouth Park racetrack is pumping the brakes on its plans to offer legal sports betting by the end of this month.

On Tuesday, Dennis Drazin, CEO of the firm that operates Monmouth Park, announced that the property’s William Hill-powered sportsbook would take its first official wager on Monday, May 28, the culmination of the Memorial Day holiday weekend.

On Wednesday, the Asbury Park Press quoted Drazin said the track’s sportsbook would now only conduct ‘ceremonial’ wagering on May 28, which would reportedly involve longtime legal betting champion (and former state senator) Ray Lesniak, along with current Governor Phil Murphy and former Gov. Chris Christie, under whose watch the state’s multi-year legal betting quest began.

Drazin said the change in plans came about following discussions with State Senate President Stephen Sweeney, who “asked me to wait.” Drazin clarified that Monmouth Park wouldn’t take ‘real’ bets until the state legislature had signaled the all-clear.

On Monday, Sweeney introduced new legislation to formally regulate sports wagering in the state. The state’s existing betting legislation offered no regulatory structure but simply repealed state-level betting laws in order to comply with the federal betting prohibition that was struck down by the US Supreme Court on Monday.

Crucially, Sweeney’s new legislation contains a clause that forbids issuing sports betting licenses to “any person that operated a sports pool within one year prior to the enactment of this act.” (Where that leaves a daily fantasy sports operator like DraftKings, which has expressed interest in launching sports betting operations in New Jersey, is anyone’s guess.)

Because Sweeney’s bill is a revenue-generator, it has to start its legislative journey in the state Assembly, which has been kicking around some draft betting legislation of its own. quoted Sweeney saying he doesn’t anticipate too much difficulty in resolving the two bills and that the process would “move quick.”

The Assembly has indicated it will hold a vote on a betting bill on May 24. Sweeney hopes to follow that with a Senate vote on June 7, and the finished bill could be on Gov. Murphy’s desk shortly thereafter.

Drazin also announced Wednesday that Monmouth Park will be filing legal action in US District Court seeking damages from the NCAA and the four pro sports leagues that legally cock-blocked New Jersey’s multi-year betting quest.

Drazin told the Asbury Park Press that the track is “entitled to additional damages” because the leagues “acted in bad faith” by preventing New Jersey operators from launching legal betting. Drazin said the damage claim timeline would commence in 2014, the year the leagues obtained a temporary restraining order against the state’s original betting legislation.

Among Monmouth’s legal arguments are the fact that the leagues were “selectively prosecuting” would-be New Jersey betting operators. Drazin claims the leagues could have used the federal betting prohibition against daily fantasy sports operators but “chose not to because they were profiting from it.”