Pennwood Seeks to Purchase Atlantic City

Pennwood Racing, which owns Freehold Raceway and figures in the mix as New Jersey prepares to launch account wagering and off-track betting systems, is looking to expand its holdings in the Garden State with the purchase of Atlantic City Race Course.

Pennwood is a partnership between Penn National Gaming and Greenwood Racing, which owns Philadelphia Park. Hal Handel, chief executive officer of the Pennsylvania track, said the proposal was on the agenda for an Aug. 15 New Jersey Racing Commission meeting.

Handel referred all questions to the Atlantic City Racing Association. Jim Murphy, president of Atlantic City, confirmed Aug. 13 that Atlantic City and Pennwood have an agreement subject to several conditions, one of which is racing commission approval.

"It's not a done deal," Murphy said, "but I anticipate there's a good chance the deal will reach fruition (by the end of the year). But until the money changes hands, you don't know."

Murphy wouldn't reveal the asking price for the South Jersey track, which offers year-round simulcasting and a 10-day turf meet in the spring. He did say Atlantic City chairman Bob Levy "probably would go on the board to keep a hand in (the operation) and make sure the best interests of New Jersey racing are protected."

There have been rumors that Pennwood, if it indeed ends up with Atlantic City, may expand the live racing program. Murphy said there is a "vehicle for that to happen if it's thought it's in the best interest of New Jersey racing."

Murphy said Pennwood and the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, which operates the Meadowlands and Monmouth Park, would have to agree on a live racing program that works best for the state. With the closure of Garden State Park, some horsemen have said there aren't enough live racing opportunities in New Jersey.