The transformation of Monmouth Park from the venerable New Jersey racetrack to a Las Vegas-style race and sports betting house began years ago.
The William Hill Race and Sports Bar, formerly the runway cafeteria, opened its doors in 2013. There are a few dozens of televisions of different sizes and an oval bar in the center. It's a decent-sized room, with a capacity of around 250, but it would fit easily into your typical Buffalo Wild Wings.
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Painted on one of the blue walls with white letters, says "The home of bets" "For now, however, it is still more sports bar than sportsbook."
] Officials say there is a problem with the current configuration: it is not big enough to handle what they think is coming.
On Monday morning, the Supreme Court of the United States heard an hour of arguments In a case that could open the door to allowing New Jersey, and potentially many other states, to offer legal sports betting, a decision is expected by the end of June, some interested parties are not waiting.
moving forward, preparing to go, "said Joe Asher, CEO of William Hill US, the official betting provider of Monmouth Park.
Thirty years ago, Atlantic City was at its peak.
The then owner of the casino, Donald Trump, attracted major events to the city, including heavyweight fights Mike Tyson and Wrestlemania IV in 1988.
The rise of the importance of Atlantic City as the destination of an event coincided with a boom construction, highlighted for the construction of the $ 1,200 million Trump Taj Mahal casino. It was the largest casino in Atlantic City when it opened in 1990, and was named by its owner as the "eighth wonder of the world". But it also marked the beginning of the end of the first year of Atlantic City.
A year after the opening of the Taj Mahal, the company requested the reorganization of Chapter 11, according to The New York Times.
With the properties of Trump in difficulties, the construction in Atlantic City diminished in years 90. The game, nevertheless, did not do it. In fact, gaming revenues increased marginally year after year throughout the decade and into the new century. In 2003, the Borgata, considered the first Las Vegas-level casino in Atlantic City, opened and energized the industry. In 2006, Atlantic City was reaching its peak again. The 12 casinos combined to win a state record of $ 5,200 million.
It's been downhill since then.
Faced with growing competition in neighboring states and a crippling recession, five Atlantic City casinos have reportedly closed more than 10,000 workers have lost their jobs and gambling revenues have been cut in half. In 2016, the remaining casinos won only $ 2.6 billion. And that's really good news: 2016 was the first year that revenue from games has not decreased since 2006.
"I have doubts about using the word recovery, I would use the word stabilized", Robert DellaFave, editor at NJonlinegambling.com industry trade site chief, avid and life-long player New Jersey, said of the current state of the Atlantic City casino industry.
"Now, if you look at it from the perspective of an individual casino," DellaFave added, "they are Each individual casino is improving, and you see that much more money is invested in the renovation … so there is hope that we see a spike. "
The last decade has been even tougher at The Three New Jersey Racecourses: Meadowlands, Monmouth Park and Freehold Raceway. In 2009, Gov. Chris Christie rejected an annual subsidy that the courts had received from the casinos, part of an agreement that kept video poker and slot machines off the racetracks.
"The horse racing authorities seemed genuine to me at the time convinced that without the subsidy, the industry would have to close its doors," recalled John Brennan, who covered New Jersey tracks and casinos for The Bergen Record of 2002 a & # 39; 17. "But once confronted with that reality, they recovered, career dates were reduced by more than half, thousands of employees lost their jobs and many others had to accept wage cuts, now it's a much smaller industry, but it has survived. "  Some racetracks in border states such as Pennsylvania and New York have slot machines and video poker. The tracks of New Jersey do not have, and has left them at a great disadvantage, said DellaFave.
"[The tracks] are in a small bind," he said. "That's why I think sports betting will definitely change the rules of the game."
A fully developed New Jersey sports betting market, even online, could generate $ 502 million in revenue per game, according to industry research firm Eilers & Krejcik Gaming. A study by Oxford Economics found that approximately $ 8 billion could be bet annually on sports in a legal New Jersey market. Clearly, both for the courts and the casinos, being able to offer legal sports bets would not hurt.
That's the plan at Borgata, where Jay Rood, vice president of races and sports at MGM Resorts International, traveled in mid-November to explore possible locations to install a betting house.
"We already have a great book of bets [at the Borgata]," Rood told ESPN from his Nevada office at the Mirage. "We zoned in a space that is underutilized a bit, near the existing book."
The design and budget to build the Borgata book are still under discussion, said Rood.
"Our desire is to concentrate it outside Nevada, which obviously depends on what the regulators allow," he added. "We do not believe we can sit on our hands and do nothing until the last second."
William Hill is adopting a similar approach in Monmouth Park.
The Supreme Court hearing on Monday will help determine the path of the legalized sports game in the United States. Here are the possible outcomes and how professional sports leagues, Congress and the gaming industry are preparing for the future.
The NFL has had a decades-long adversarial public relationship with sports betting. Here is a collection of quotes, from Pete Rozelle in 1963 to the recent comments of Roger Goodell.
The second phase of the transformation plan presents a bulging overflow area in the grandstand outside the current sports bar, which would expand the capacity of approximately 2,500 people, according to Dennis Drazen, a lawyer representing Monmouth Park.
The third phase is the construction of an independent bookmaker, similar to what you can find in a William Hill sportsbook in Las Vegas.
"I do not think I can have enough televisions," said Asher, CEO of William Hill.
An outdoor dining venue, currently houses the Lady & # 39; s Secret Café, and valet parking. Two areas are being considered for the new sports betting house, which is estimated to cost $ 5 million or more. But for now, the new sports betting house in Monmouth Park is still a little further on. There is a very real possibility that the track, and other New Jersey gaming operators, may be betting at some point in 2018.
"We may be willing to accept bets in two weeks," Drazin told ESPN.
New Jersey may be the first to move if the Professional Sports Protection and Amateurs Act of 1992 is lifted, but it is not expected to be the last state to enter the legal gambling game. Fifteen states have introduced sports betting legislation in 2017. In addition to New Jersey, Connecticut, Mississippi, New York and Pennsylvania already pbaded legislation that would allow them to move quickly if the Supreme Court changes the game.
"We've had discussions [about Mississippi] but we have not necessarily identified something specific there yet," said Rood of the MGM, owner of the Beau Rivage Resort & Casino in Biloxi, Mississippi.
"It would be stupid not to look at all viable options at this time, anywhere we have a physical operation, we are evaluating the possibilities of being able to offer sports bets there, it's fun, it's exciting, we hope we're not just doing spin our tires here, even if we are, we think it's worth the effort to be prepared. "
The push to expand legal sports betting in the US UU started in New Jersey. The debate will be decided in Washington. For the deteriorated racetracks and casinos of the Garden State, there is a lot at stake.
New Jersey State Senator Ray Lesniak has been there from the beginning. Lesniak defended an election measure in 2011 that raised the question of whether to legalize sports betting to voters. In November 2011, the referendum went through a margin better than two to one. Governor Christie signed the subsequent legislation in January 2012, and the New Jersey Department of Gaming Control published sports betting regulations on its website later in the year. That August, the NCAA, NFL, NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball filed a lawsuit against Christie, initiating a legal saga of five years that, after many twists and turns, has reached the Supreme Court.
"One of my proudest, happiest moments was when the Supreme Court took the case," Lesniak said. "I'm so excited that this is coming together, this will make life in Atlantic City a peak once again."