The paperwork has been filed and oral arguments are set for March 17 in front of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia as the battle to legalize sports wagering in New Jersey rages on.
And there are new indications of just how important the outcome is for Monmouth Park, struggling to survive amid competition from race tracks flush with casino gambling dollars in neighboring states.
Beyond the much-needed alternate revenue stream gambling on sporting events would provide, the fate of the 7,500-seat amphitheater, unveiled with great fanfare last October when it was touted as an alternative to the PNC Bank Arts Center, now appears directly tied to the court’s decision.
If the Third Circuit does not provide a favorable ruling later this spring, it would likely signal the end of a major project that was a key part of the plan to reverse the historic Oceanport track’s financial fortunes.
“We had several commitments to finance the project when sports betting looked like it was going to go forward,” said Dennis Drazin, advisor to the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horseman’s Association, the operators of Monmouth Park. “When the court put it on hold some of the banks got a little, I wouldn’t say reluctant, but it just kind of dried up.”
And without a potentially lucrative revenue stream like sports wagering, it will be increasingly difficult for a race track that lost approximately $4.5-million in 2014 to find financing. The cost of the project had risen to around $15-million.
The newly formed Thoroughbred Management, with long-time Shore music promoter Jerry Bakal, and AEG Live, an international music company, were on board to serve as the venue’s operators, which was scheduled to open in May.
“If you win the sports betting case the money will be there, so we’re waiting to see,” Drazin added.
Monmouth Park was set to begin accepting bets on NFL games last Oct. 26, after Gov. Chris Christie signed the 2014 Sports Wagering Law on Oct. 17, which repealed federal laws against gambling on sporting events and opened the door for casinos and race tracks to begin accepting bets.
But federal Judge Michael Shipp granted “the leagues,” the NFL-led group that includes every major professional sports league and the NCAA, a temporary restraining order on Oct. 24 to stop Monmouth Park.
Staff writer Stephen Edelson is an Asbury Park Press columnist. Email: email@example.com; Twitter: @SteveEdelsonAPP