Since sports betting became legal in New Jersey over 18 months ago, the question for many in South Jersey was whether a book would come to the former Garden State Park complex in Cherry Hill. A Cherry Hill sportsbook? Sure, why not.
Those visions came closer to fruition earlier this month, as the township’s planning board approved an off-track betting (OTB) facility built on a tract of land that was part of the old racecourse.
Penn National Gaming plans to build a 30,000-square-foot restaurant and betting facility open seven days a week. This would return horse racing action to the site of a former track that drew families and fans for generations along Route 70.
While the OTB “Favorites” could bring jobs and patrons to the massive shopping complex (might be a good escape for those who aren’t big fans of hitting up all those stores or the nearby mall), there’s still one major hurdle to overcome to bring a Cherry Hill sportsbook online. That involves a company known for running OTBs across Delaware.
A decision in the fall maintained that former owner Greenwood Gaming maintains the sole rights to offer sports betting at the facility. The company operates Parx Casino, along with two Turf Club locations that offer horse racing and sports action. They have long opposed efforts to bring live betting to Cherry Hill.
Does New Jersey need another live location?
New Jersey has become a template of legal on-site and NJ online sports betting apps, challenging Nevada for top spot in handle monthly now. This fall, the state saw action eclipse $500 million for multiple consecutive months.
The state has shown legal betting works. However, a lot of it has worked because of the ease of online access, which has now taken up around 90 percent of the market.
Retail locations haven’t been uniformly successful in New Jersey. In fact, multiple casinos in AC often lose money in the winter months at their live books.
Could Penn National do better?
They have seen what it takes to stay afloat, as the books at the Meadowlands and Monmouth Park usually do brisk business. Unlike Atlantic City, there’s a strong local popular from which they can draw, either in South Jersey or coming over from Philadelphia.
We don’t know the timeline of a potential appeal of the decision. However, breaking ground on the OTB could certainly speed up the process and create another element for the new judge to consider.