As Haskell nears, N.J. horse racing hoping for boost from sports betting

One of New Jersey’s biggest horse racing events, the $1 million Haskell Invitational, is this Sunday at Monmouth Park.

A bill now on Gov. Chris Christie’s desk could have a big impact on the future of racing at the track.

The measure that was overwhelming approved by state lawmakers would allow New Jersey casinos and horse racing tracks to accept wagers on sports events. Dennis Drazin, an advisor to the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association which leases Monmouth Park from the state, said the Haskell will remain a million dollar race even if the governor does not the bill into law.

“My opinion is we’ll always offer the million dollar Haskell race because it’s that important to the image of Monmouth Park, but you might have to cut down other areas,” Drazin said. “So in order to offer $1 million you may have to run lesser days, the rest of your purse structure might be a little less.”

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If Christie signs the bill, Drazin says the track is ready to begin sports betting in September.

Professional leagues and the NCAA have consistently opposed legalizing sports wagering in New Jersey.

This latest legislation comes after New Jersey has lost mulitple rounds in the courts trying to pave the way for sports betting. In 2011, New Jersey voters approved a constitutional amendment allowing for it.  But boosters have run into a 1992 federal law that gave states a small window to legalize sports betting.  The Garden State did not act then, but has been trying for several years now.  

The bill on Gov. Christie’s desk would repeal state laws enacted years ago prohibiting sports wagering.  Proponents say it would create their desired effect without needing approval from Washington.

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