Account Betting Poised to Move Ahead in Jersey

The New Jersey Racing Commission expects to consider a "participation agreement" for distribution of revenue from account and off-track wagering at an Aug. 18 meeting at which the stakeholders are expected to apply for a license to begin account betting.

The stakeholders are the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, which operates Meadowlands and Monmouth Park; Pennwood Racing, which owns Freehold Raceway; and Greenwood Racing, which owns Atlantic City Race Course. The NJSEA will handle the account wagering application for all the parties.

At a meeting July 16, the New Jersey Account Wagering Operating Board was formed, said Dennis Dowd, vice president of off-track wagering and account wagering for the NJSEA and a member of the board. Other members are chairman Bruce Garland, senior vice president of racing for the NJSEA; Chris McErlean, general manager at Meadowlands; Don Codey, general manager of Freehold Raceway; and Hal Handel, chief executive officer of Greenwood Racing.

Dowd said the stakeholders would apply for a license in the hope of having computer-based account wagering with video streaming ready by mid-October. After that, voice and touch applications would be added, followed by a system whereby live operators would take calls.

"It's our desire to be up and running by the (Oct. 30) Breeders' Cup," Dowd said. "Our goal is to get (the complete system in place) in nine months."

The off-track betting system will take more time, Dowd said, given local government approvals and applications for liquor licenses in various municipalities. Dowd said the NJSEA plans to apply for three parlors at one time, "but I would love to have one OTB up and running at this time next year, hopefully sooner."

New Jersey Racing Commission executive director Frank Zanzuccki said the panel would hold public hearings in municipalities tabbed by the racing associations as locations for OTB parlors. Zanzuccki said the hearings are part of the approval process.

"Practically speaking, we don't envision a situation where a racetrack makes a request to situate a parlor in a community that doesn't want one," Zanzuccki said.

Handel, who through Greenwood is tied to Pennwood, said officials are looking at prospective sites for OTB outlets. The companies' parlors would be located in the central and southern parts of the state.

"We're making some progress, but there's nothing definitive nor anything ready to file with the racing commission," Handel said.

Among the locations on the table is Cherry Hill Township, where the old Garden State Park was located. (Pennwood retained about 10 acres of land at the racetrack, which closed in 2001). Currently, simulcasting in South Jersey is only available at Atlantic City Race Course and the Atlantic City casinos.

New Jersey is one of the smallest states in the union land-wise but it has a population of more than 8.6 million. Given the fact traveling even a short distance can be a headache because of congestion, OTB parlors are expected to do fairly well.