Parx Casino is not a fan of nearby gaming establishments; particularly when it comes to sports betting.
Now its parent company, Greenwood Racing, is stepping in, seemingly with a similar mindset.
Garden State Park Racetrack recently established plans to become the first standalone sports betting property in New Jersey. Located in Cherry Hill, the long-shuttered track wants to develop a retail sportsbook within the oval of its facility. Currently, the facility is a site for retail outlets, apartments and restaurants.
A story by ROI-NJ detailed the racetrack’s plans. It also became the catalyst for Greenwood’s latest legal maneuver.
Greenwood and its company Garden State Park Racing sent a letter to Judge Renee Marie Bumb via its attorneys. In it, the gaming company cites the ROI-NJ story as proof of Garden State Park Racetrack plans. The letter also requests the court to prohibit Garden State Park from advancing with its sportsbook plans.
From the letter:
“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.”
The longstanding rift between developer, operator
As the initial story noted, the real estate tandem of Jack Morris and Joe Marino want to turn the old Garden State Park track into a standalone sports betting property.
According to the report, the facility would open within 90 days. The duo already had its list of bookmakers down to a select few. In fact, according to Morris, the state’s Division of Gaming Enforcement had visited several times. They also hired the firm SOSH Architects to craft the 142-seat sportsbook.
The original dispute, at least the crux of it, stems from this past summer. Around that time, Cherry Hill Towne Center Partners, developers of the site, filed a lawsuit against Garden State Park Racing, the former operator. In the suit, the plaintiff alleged that the operator overstepped its bounds by preventing the racetrack from opening a sportsbook. For its part, Garden State Park Racing said it was well within its rights to do so.
The lawsuit claims these restrictions, specifically as they relate to sports betting, are “invalid and unenforceable.” The case remains open.
Fear of cannibalization?
Part of the motivation behind Greenwood’s suit could be a fear of competition. The company has multiple properties in the burgeoning PA sports betting industry.
The company’s flagship casino, Parx, operates in Philadelphia, less than 20 miles from Cherry Hill. Along with Parx Sportsbook, three other books that are comprising the Philadelphia sports betting scene. That includes another Greenwood property, South Philadelphia Turf Club.
Parx briefly considered moving into NJ betting market
While no movement of any kind had taken place since there was a time at the tail end of 2018 when Greenwood and Penn National expressed interest in joining NJ sports betting.
In December, gaming industry analysts and researchers from Fantini Research received confirmation from Penn National that both it and Greenwood were in line to obtain online sports betting skins for Freehold Raceway, a racetrack the two companies co-own.
At the time, per Fantini, negotiations for a retail sportsbook and online operations were underway. They were expected to conclude before the new year. That obviously did not happen.
When Parx announced its partnership with Kambi Group, one piece of the agreement hinted at the company entering New Jersey:
“The contract … includes a provision for Kambi to support Greenwood Gaming with a potential sports betting operation in the neighbouring state of New Jersey.”
All that’s left to do is wait
It would appear as though a move into the Garden State has been paused, if not canceled altogether. Instead, the focus is on stopping the Cherry Hill development from moving forward.
Garden State Park Racing holds restrictive covenants at the facility, prohibiting “gaming of any sort … at any time by any party other than” the ownership group.
While Cherry Hill Towne Center Partners have expressed strong interest in revitalizing the old track, Greenwood and Garden State Park Racing stand in the way.
According to Cherry Hill Towne Center Partners, the Garden State Park and Greenwood “waived or abandoned the protections of the declaration as they have failed to develop any off-track wagering facilities on the (Cherry Hill) property.”
The developers claimed, then, that those restrictive covenants are flawed and represent “an unreasonable restraint on trade.”
Regardless, Greenwood still stands in the way. And it appears as though they will not go down without a fight.