The Meadowlands Racetrack plans to bring legal sports betting to New York City's doorstep next month.
Jeff Gural, who manages the northern New Jersey track, told The Associated Press that he plans to begin offering sports betting on July 15. That's significantly earlier than a timetable the track laid out just over a week ago when a competing track in Oceanport and an Atlantic City casino became the first in New Jersey to take sports bets following its legalization.
The development came as New York state adjourned its legislative session Wednesday without adopting a sports betting bill.
"New York did me such a favor by not passing sports betting," Gural said. "That leaves me the entirety of New York City, Long Island, Westchester County. There are 15 million people that live within 20 miles of the Meadowlands. They gave me a tremendous gift."
It would be a gift for his New Jersey track; Gural also owns the Tioga Downs track in upstate New York and was counting on sports betting to help revive it.
New York's failure to act gives New Jersey at least a short-term advantage: Many of the customers expected to place sports bets at the track will come from New York, yet the tax money sports book operators are charged on those bets (9.75 to 13 percent, depending on where and how the bets are placed) will go to New Jersey.
New Jersey gambling regulators confirmed Gural's timetable to begin offering sports betting, calling it doable. So far, Monmouth Park racetrack in Oceanport, near the Jersey shore, and Atlantic City's Borgata casino are the only ones in New Jersey offering sports betting.
The Ocean Resort Casino, formerly known as Revel, will become the third on June 28 when it reopens on the Atlantic City Boardwalk. The Meadowlands would be next in line just over two weeks later.
Ironically, it was the failed pursuit of building a casino at the Meadowlands that led to concern for the track complex's future, and it will be sports betting that will ease those concerns somewhat. Gural and Hard Rock International proposed a casino at the track complex in East Rutherford, just over six miles from New York City, but the proposal was resoundingly rejected by voters and is unlikely to resurface anytime soon. New Jersey's Democratic State Senate President Steve Sweeney told The Associated Press in December that the political support for the casino project does not exist, and even Gural and Hard Rock say it could be five years or more before that might change.
New Jersey won a U.S. Supreme Court case in May clearing the way for all 50 states to legalize sports betting if they desire. Delaware was the first state to do so following the ruling; New Jersey was close behind.
The Meadowlands has partnered with Betfair US to offer sports betting at the track. It is a subsidiary of Paddy Power Betfair, one of the largest publicly traded sports betting companies in the world.
Gural said sports betting will help the track's bottom line, but added it will not, by itself, save the horse racing industry in New Jersey, which continues to struggle competing against neighboring states that subsidize their tracks. New Jersey's tracks used to receive $30 million a year from the state's casinos, but former Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, ended those payments in 2011.
Without some sort of subsidy, Gural said, the track could be forced to just offer sports betting and simulcasting.
The track eventually plans to offer online sports betting, but will only offer sports betting at the track in the early going.