OCEANPORT, NJ — Monmouth Park is ready to open a sports book.
That is not news. Track management has been working on a sports book area in a no longer used cafeteria area in the rear of the grandstand for months.
The news is: On May 14, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) struck down a federal ban on race tracks and casinos operating sports book-making operations such as those that are now confined solely to the casinos in Las Vegas.
No sooner had SCOTUS issued its 6 to 3 ruling striking down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act as unconstitutional than Monmouth Park management was convening a press conference to announce its readiness to start up sports betting in cooperation with the William Hill organization, one of Great Britain's biggest book making organizations and a long time sponsor of the track's signature race, the Haskell Invitational.
According to race track officials, the Monmouth sports book could handle as much as $50 million per year, starting as soon as two weeks out with the track and Hill splitting the profits.
Sports betting is seen as a rescue of the cash starved track. When Red Bank lawyer Dennis Drazin stepped to the podium to announce the start up, all of the focus was on the creation of a rescue. But, no dollar figures were forthcoming that would shed any light on increases in the track's purse structure — the lifeline of survival for Thoroughbred horse owners, trainers, riders and backstretch employees.
Those all important dollar figures will be forthcoming in future condition books coming out of Racing Secretary John Heims' office.
They will be developed by Darby Development, the organization Drazin heads to serve as management consultants for the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemens' Association, the group that leases the physical plant from the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority.
New Jersey has been preparing for legalized book making since 2011 when the state's voters approved a referendum amending the state's constitution to allow for it. Under the leadership of former Governor Chris Christie, the state approved legislation that repealed the provisions of the federal bill. However, a federal judge issued a ruling in October 2014 that said, the National Football League, the National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League and the National Collegiate Athletic Association were within their rights to prevent wagering on their contests.
Reports circulating around the SCOTUS ruling say the state has spent $9 million and Monmouth Park another million of its own to get the race track into the sports book business.
At the press conference, Drazin said, “This is the culmination of the hard work and dedication of a large group of individuals, all of whom contributed to today's victory and will undoubtedly contribute to our future success. We started this fight back in 2012 and are grateful the Supreme Court has recognized we've been right all along. We can now shift our focus on commencing sports betting, which will be off and running at Monmouth Park as soon as possible.”
With staff training and legislation that sets up regulations for sports book operations still to be completed, the betting here is a late June start up.