As talk of bringing sports betting to New Jersey began to heat up again last month, Monmouth Park executive Bob Kulina took a ride down the New Jersey Turnpike to watch how two Delaware casinos handled wagers on a typical NFL Sunday.
By 9:30 a.m., Kulina said, there may have been a thousand people there, all lining up to place their bets on the coming afternoon’s games.
Visualizing what a similar volume would look like at Monmouth, if and when the racetrack can begin taking bets, Kulina said he called up legal adviser Dennis Drazin to try his hand at his best “Jaws” impression.
“You’re going to need a bigger boat,” Kulina told him.
Back in 2012, when Gov. Chris Christie signed legislation to allow sports betting in New Jersey following a voter referendum on the issue that passed the year before, Monmouth Park moved to partner with British bookmaker William Hill in building and setting up what would become the racetrack’s future sports book.
That state law was then challenged by professional sports leagues under the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, a 1992 federal law limiting sports betting to just four states that did not not include New Jersey. The state ultimately failed to overturn PASPA, losing its appeals and receiving notice earlier this year that the U.S. Supreme Court would not hear its case.
Despite what most considered a serious, if not fatal, blow to the state’s efforts, Monmouth continued with its sports book plans. Even now, with the state poised to begin offering sports betting under a directive issued last month by the acting state attorney general and subsequent legislation that would maneuver around PASPA and pave the way for operations to begin, nothing is certain and the leagues have already filed their legal appeals.
But it’s not stopping Kulina and Drazin from talking expansion.
“This is the interim,” said Kulina, president of Darby Development, which manages operations at Monmouth Park, sitting in the now-built room, surrounded by televisions. “We wanted to have something really nice to start.”
Drazin said that part of the commitment from partner William Hill includes a minimum investment of $5 million in a new, Las Vegas-style sports book if sports wagering does indeed come to fruition.
Once things get rolling, Drazin added that Monmouth would look to hire 111 new employees “solely to accommodate sports betting.”