• Legal technicalities could award the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association up to nine sports betting “skins.”
  • As a sports betting operator, the NJTHA could relieve taxpayer contributions to racing purses.

TRENTON, N.J. – By state law, all New Jersey gaming venues are entitled to offer three online sports wagering products (aka “skins”).

Effectively, this provision allows a licensed entity to brand their Internet-based betting products in up to three disparate ways. It also gives these venues the rights to sign service agreements with up to three different sportsbook operators.

Between the nine Atlantic City casinos, the state’s three active racetracks, and two former tracks (Garden State Park and Atlantic City Race Course), there can be up to 42 skins in play. The two former track venues are limited to a single skin each.

However, thanks to the language of the laws governing sports betting in the Garden State, there could be nine more skins on the table. All of these would be in control of the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association (NJTHA).

Monmouth Park operator Dennis Drazin, who was instrumental in New Jersey’s recent multi-year efforts to get the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA, 1992) overturned, believes that the state’s horsemen qualify as licensed operators.

In a recent comment to the state racing commission, Drazin expressed that the NJTHA meets all legal standards to qualify as a licensable sportsbook operator. This is because New Jersey law allows for racing operators – and not merely physical track owners – to be licensed for New Jersey sports betting.

Because the NJTHA leases track time from venues such as Monmouth Park, they should be able to apply for and receive three skins permits for each track where they do business: Monmouth Park, The Meadowlands, and Freehold Raceway.

A Sports Betting Cure-All For The NJTHA?

One reason this angle – if borne out in any official capacity – could be a positive boon for the NJTHA is that the association has fallen on hard times.

Just last year, the NJTHA was hit with a bill of over $30 million just for its Monmouth Park operations. That money is allegedly owed to Darby Development, LLC, of which Drazin is CEO.

Further, the NJTHA has recently received a $6 million increase (for a total of $20 million for the 2019 racing year) in taxpayer monies to boost their horse racing purses statewide. This is in addition to a larger 5-year, $100 million purse grant currently being considered.

If empowered to offer sports wagering in an online, easily-accessible, and competitive capacity, the NJTHA might be able to close these budgetary gaps and better sustain itself going forward, without relying on taxpayer bailouts.

In the immediate aftermath of PASPA’s overturn, New Jersey horsemen were eagerly awaiting news on what their “cut” would be at racetracks operating physical and online books.

While New Jersey horsemen do receive a limited “allowance” from the legal sports betting that goes on at venues they anchor, the financial possibilities of running their own sportsbooks are far greater in scope. However, whether or not New Jersey will honor license applications from the NJTHA remains to be seen.

With so many books already up and running – and with so many online sports betting portals operational in the state – there will be concerns that new players could actually fragment and hinder the young industry in its still-early days of operation.

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