With Garden Gone, Bettors Play Waiting Game

Now that live racing and simulcasting has ended permanently at Garden State Park, Pennwood Racing, which owns nearly 10 acres of land at the site, must wait for off-track betting legislation to pass in New Jersey, and gain regulatory approval from Cherry Hill Township, before it begins construction on a planned off-track wagering parlor.

In the meantime, area bettors will have to venture elsewhere. In New Jersey, the closest wagering venues are Atlantic City Race Course, the Atlantic City casinos, and Freehold Raceway. The closest facilities, however, are located just across the Delaware River in Pennyslvania. And there's always Delaware Park.

New Jersey residents can't legally participate in account wagering.

"We can't do anything until the legislation is passed," Hal Handel, an official with Pennwood and chief executive officer of Philadelphia Park, said of the Garden State situation. "In addition, we have to wait for rules and regulations to be adopted by the township, which has two subdivisions on the site to approve. In all likelihood, what we will build will look a lot like the South Philadelphia Turf Club."

Handel said Pennwood's lease of Garden State Park, which included the permits to conduct live racing and simulcasting, expired Tuesday.

In the meantime, Pennwood is finishing a $3-million renovation to Freehold Raceway, a Monmouth County harness track that also offers daily simulcasting.

"We're renovating the entire clubhouse level," Handel said."The area is 270 feet long and more than 100 feet wide, and we've taken out all the seats and put in platforms and walls of television and big screens for
simulcasting. It will provide seating for 400 people, and should be completed by the end of July."

Handel said the Freehold project will again have a "Turf Club" feel. Greenwood's five Turf Clubs throughout Philadelphia and its suburbs are state-of-the art facilities that import about 40 signals on a daily basis.

On June 5, Philadelphia Park and the five Turf Clubs will be open to
the public for "open house" parties from 6-10 p.m. with free appetizer buffets, giveaways, raffle prizes, and free programs.

Greenwood's sixth and final Turf Club allowed by law will be located in the Roosevelt Mall in Northeast Philadelphia, not far from Philadelphia Park. It could open this summer when approval is given by the Pennsylvania State Racing Commission.