After kicking off at breakneck speed, Garden State Park’s quest to bring legal sports betting to Cherry Hill Racetrack has ground to an abrupt halt. While the venue has not hosted a horse race since 2001, Cherry Hill is still licensed to offer players NJ sports betting thanks to a law approved two months ago by Gov. Phil Murray.
Unfortunately, the champagne has been put on ice indefinitely thanks to a lawsuit being against Cherry Hill Racetrack by area developers Cherry Hill Towne Center Partners (CHTCP). They claim the gaming firm has crossed the line by preventing Garden State Park from competing on the NJ sports betting market.
Garden State Park Racing, who have restrictive covenants at the Cherry Hill Racetrack in place since 1999, have since argued that they hold the exclusive rights to accept bets at the venue. Cherry Hill Towne Center Partners responded by saying that these restrictions are “invalid and unenforceable”, especially in relation to NJ sports betting.
Garden State Park Racing obtained the restrictive covenants two years before Garden State Park Racetrack held their last race at Cherry Hill Racetrack. The restrictive covenants prevent “gaming of any sort … at any time by any party other than Garden State Park Racing”. Garden State Park Racing has stated their intent to prevent any party he seeks to ignore the restrictions or engage in any form of gambling at their venue.
“GSPR attaches significant importance and value to the rights it holds under the restrictive covenants”
-Roberto Rivera-Soto - GSPR attorney, in a letter to the Cherry Hill developer.
In the lawsuit there are claims there is no way anyone could have possibly predicted that NJ sports betting was even a possibility when the restrictions were granted. It then goes on to say Cherry Hill is actually seeking a restriction that “does not prohibit the newly permitted sports wagering on the Garden State Property.”
According to the NJ sports betting bill, Garden State Park will be able to offer legitimate sports betting as “it is a former racetrack that staged a horse race within 15 years prior to the effective date of the original 2014 bill”.
The bill then goes on to say that as long as the events take place on “the land contained within the racecourse oval,” Garden State Park are allowed to accept bets.
The lawsuit uses to its advantage by stating that Cherry Hill Towne Center Partners intend to host their sportsbook “within the oval of the former Garden State Park racecourse, “while claiming that Garden State Park Racing, since it is outside of the oval “cannot qualify for use as a sports wagering facility under New Jersey law.”
Cherry Hill Towne Center Partners intend to have its sportsbook “within the oval of the former Garden State Park racecourse,” according to the lawsuit. On the flip side, the lawsuit claims, GSPR, which is outside the oval, “cannot qualify for use as a sports wagering facility under New Jersey law”. Lawyers for the Cherry Hill say threat the restrictive covenants are flawed as it makes no mention of the end date, clearly making it an unreasonable restraint on trade”.
Initial reports indicated that Garden State Park Racing had developed plans for an off-track betting house. However, nothing further was ever done in this regard. Many believe that if they had created this betting house, it would have created a clear conflict of interest with Greenwood Racing, their parent from Pennsylvania.
Because Garden State Park Racing did not pursue this project the lawsuit claims that they “waived or abandoned the protections of the declaration as they have failed to develop any off-track wagering facilities on the (Cherry Hill) property. Neither GSPR nor any of its affiliates have any interest in developing an off-track wagering facility at the (former track) or in the vicinity”.
The area where Garden State Park Racing was said to be looking to build their betting house has since been named Towne Place at Garden State Park and is a mixed-use development consisting of a number of stores, restaurants, and housing.
Should the GSPR ban on sports betting be lifted, and should Garden State Park roll out its operation, it will be one of only three racetracks to offer NJ sports betting, with the others being Meadowlands Racetrack and Monmouth Park.