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Monmouth Park to offer sports betting May 28

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Dennis Drazin, CEO of Darby Development LLC, at William Hill Race & Sports Bar at Monmouth Park.
Dennis Drazin, CEO of Darby Development LLC, at William Hill Race & Sports Bar at Monmouth Park. - ()

The CEO of the company that operates Monmouth Park confirmed Tuesday the racetrack will begin taking bets on sporting events Memorial Day Weekend.

Dennis Drazin, CEO of Darby Development LLC, made the announcement one day after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of a bid by the state of New Jersey to legalize sports betting.

“We plan to offer sports wagering May 28, the Monday of the Memorial Day weekend, at the William Hill Sports Bar,” Drazin told NJBIZ.

According to Drazin, his company and its partner William Hill, the U.K. bookmaking giant, will split all betting revenue evenly. Last December, William Hill built out the William Hill Sports Bar with $500,000 of Monmouth Park money, Drazin said.

“We also renovated the grandstand for an additional $1 million,” Drazin said. “We have more television screens, odds boards and more windows for ticket writers as opposed to betting tellers.”

Now that sports betting is legal, William Hill has a contractual obligation to spend $5 million to build out a Las Vegas-style sports bar on the footprint of the Lady’s Secret Café by the racetrack’s clubhouse, he said.

Estimates say New Jersey could net as much as $10 billion a year in revenue from sports betting. In anticipation of Monday’s ruling, six legislators in New Jersey’s General Assembly drafted a bill to legalize sports betting and set the Division of Gaming Enforcement as the state’s regulator of the newly legalized industry.

Meanwhile, a trio of state senators have advanced a proposal for an 8 percent gross revenue tax on in-person wagering, along with a 12.5 percent levy on sports bets.

The funds generated would go toward programs for senior citizens and the disabled, while an additional 1.25 percent tax on racetrack gaming revenue would be handed out to the host municipalities and counties.

Gov. Phil Murphy has expressed his support of legalized sports wagering and is awaiting legislation to come out of the statehouse.

“In the interim, Monmouth Park is not subject to an injunction,” Drazin said. “And until there is new legislation, we believe we are free to open up in a privately regulated environment. If the governor and/or the Legislature ask us to slow down, we will defer to their wishes.”

Monmouth Park plans to invite Murphy, former Gov. Chris Christie and former state Sen. Ray Lesniak prior to the May 28 launch to make celebratory wagers. Christie and Lesniak were among the most highly visible proponents of legalizing sports betting in the state.

Hours for sports betting at the racetrack have tentatively been set for 8 a.m.-2 a.m. weekdays and until 4 a.m. on weekends, Drazin said. Mobile betting is being planned as well.

Monmouth Park now has an upscale dining venue, miniature golf and sports betting on site, but Drazin, a horse owner himself, says racing still rules.

“Racing is still our prime business,” he said. “We hope to expand our racing days with sports betting revenue and increase purses.”

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