First N.J. Off-Track Bet Facility Near Opening

Six years after off-track wagering was legalized in New Jersey, the first OTW facility is set to open mid-February in Vineland, with two more to follow in mid to late 2007.

In Vineland, located in southern New Jersey, Greenwood Racing Inc. is progressing rapidly with construction of an OTW in a former auto dealership on Delsea Drive.

"It will be nicer than the turf clubs in Pennsylvania," said Hal Handel, Greenwood Racing's executive officer. "In theory, as the six turf clubs in Pennsylvania were built, each successive one got a little bit better. In Vineland, there will be plasma televisions with high-definition sports programming, a grill with light fare, and a very large sports bar."

The second OTW to open is likely to be in Toms River, a proposed 759-seat facility in a former supermarket building on Route 37 in Ocean County.

The Toms River facility, which is located near several senior citizen communities in Berkeley Township, was the third approved by the N.J. State Racing Commission. Earlier this year, the agency authorized the Vineland site and one in Woodbridge Township, which is in the central portion of the state. Owned by Freehold Raceway Off-Track LLC (Freehold is co-owned by Penn National Gaming, Inc. and Greenwood Racing, Inc.) the facility is expected to generate gross revenue of $40 million annually and to employ 75 to 125 people.

Last week, New Jersey Attorney General Stuart Rabner signed off on the proposed site, affirming the approval of the racing commission, but officials in neighboring Berkeley are seeking to stop the project and have announced that they plan to challenge the decision through the appellate division of state superior court. Residents have expressed concern about crime and quality-of-life issues, especially since the facility will contain a bar.

"Our lawyers are confident that any lawsuit will be dismissed," said Handel. "Demolition of the existing supermarket will begin in January, and the facility could be ready by late spring."

The Woodbridge OTW, owned by the N.J. Sports & Exposition Authority, will be a 25,000 square-foot facility anchoring an existing shopping center off Route 1 in Fords. The cost is projected to be $6.5 million, and it is scheduled for a December 2007 opening.