Sports betting venue could be in the cards for popular Cherry Hill strip mall

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A gate is all the remains of the the Garden State Park Racetrack in Cherry Hill, N.J. The site has been redeveloped into a complex of shops, restaurants, and housing. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

A gate is all the remains of the the Garden State Park Racetrack in Cherry Hill, N.J. The site has been redeveloped into a complex of shops, restaurants, and housing. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Thanks to a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision and a new state law, New Jersey racetracks and casinos are finally accepting bets on sporting events.

A popular Cherry Hill shopping center may be next.

According to a Politico report, the law signed by Gov. Phil Murphy this week allows current and former casinos and racetracks to offer sports betting.

That includes the former Garden State Park Racetrack on Route 70 in Cherry Hill, which closed in 2001 after nearly 59 years. It’s now the site of a high-end commercial and residential development that includes a Wegmans grocery store, Best Buy, and Home Depot, as well as apartments and offices. The site is owned by two developers with ties to South Jersey powerbroker George Norcross, according to the Politco report.

“It’s a relatively good thing,” said Cherry Hill Mayor Chuck Cahn, of the possibility of a sports betting venue coming to the township. An increase in visitors to the area could mean higher sales for the nearby stores and restaurants at what is now known as Towne Place on Garden State Park, the mayor noted.

But Cahn also worried that the addition of a sports betting venue could worsen traffic, and crowds of potentially rowdy sports fans might translate into more people calling the cops. “It could bring a higher level of service for our police department if it brings the wrong element of people,” he said.

On a recent afternoon outside Wegmans, opinions were mixed about what a sports betting venue would mean for Cherry Hill.

“Parking. I mean, you gotta rethink the entire area,” said Chris Dent of Philadelphia, suggesting that the strip mall’s busy parking lot was already nearing capacity. “One of these big box [stores] is gonna have to go.”

Cherry Hill resident Alan Polonski disagreed. “Traffic is bad enough as it is,” he said. “I don’t think it would have any significant effect one way or the other.”

After the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the federal ban on sports betting in May, New Jersey rushed to draft and pass legislation that would legalize the practice in the Garden State.

Murphy signed the law this week, and, on Thursday, he placed the state’s first legal sports bet at Monmouth Park racetrack in Oceanport.

The Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City opened its new sportsbook the same day.

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