America’s oldest racetrack, Freehold Raceway, in Freehold Borough, New Jersey, will soon have a retail sportsbook. Freehold Raceway is a half-mile track and has been holding horse races since the 1830s.
Owned by Pennwood Racing, the venerable horse track has petitioned the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement for a sports betting license. The move received unanimous support from the Freehold Borough Council.
When the license is approved, Freehold Raceway will become the state’s 11th land-based sportsbook. The license will also make the racetrack able to choose up to three skins online sports betting.
Once Freehold’s online sportsbooks launch, New Jersey could have as many as 33 online sports betting brands.
Sports Betting and Freehold Raceway a Winning Bet
Freehold’s owner, Pennwood Racing, is a joint venture between Penn National Gaming and Greenwood Racing; Greenwood is the owner of Parx Casino in Pennsylvania. Parx Casino also operates an online casino in New Jersey in partnership with Ocean Resort Casino.
While horse racing is on the decline in New Jersey and elsewhere, horse tracks that embrace sports betting continue to do well. In fact, horse racing tracks in New Jersey represent the top retail sportsbooks in the state.
Meadowlands in East Rutherford, is the largest retail sportsbook in New Jersey, with nearly two-thirds of the state’s sports betting revenue. It’s also the largest online sportsbook, using FanDuel and PointsBet skins.
While Monmouth Park isn’t as big as Meadowlands, its retail sportsbook is more profitable than any of those in Atlantic City. Meadowlands’ online sports betting revenue is also the fourth-highest in the state.
Freehold Raceway, while long-established, isn’t nearly as big as either Meadowlands or Monmouth. Moreover, it doesn’t plan to expand to accommodate a retail sportsbook. Finally, Freehold isn’t close to New York City, like Meadowlands. Both Freehold Raceway and Monmouth Park are around 90 minutes from the Big Apple.
Nonetheless, the racetrack has enough fans interested in sports betting that a sportsbook should provide a decent revenue boost.
Penwood Racing, a Troubled Joint Venture
The Pennwood Racing joint venture also includes six standalone off-track betting sites around the state, operating under the Favorites brand.
In 2001, two years after Pennwood acquired Freehold Raceway, off-track betting became legal in New Jersey. While Pennwood Racing won’t be allowed to offer sports betting at these locations, there is the potential for cross-selling.
Unfortunately, the relationship between Penn National Gaming and Greenwood Racing hasn’t always been friendly. For example, in 2010 a disagreement led Penn to sue Greenwood over failing to open a new off-track betting location in Camden County.
Greenwood Racing independently owns and operates several gambling venues in Pennsylvania, neighboring to Camden County. These include Parx Casino, as well as many off-track betting sites. Penn alleged that Greenwood had deliberately undermined the Camden County plans because the new Favorites brand location would have interfered with its own interests, causing a loss of cross-border betting.
The Camden County Favorites location eventually did open in the town of Clementon, but it took four years. As luck would have it, Freehold Raceway is far from the Pennsylvania border that there shouldn’t be a problem.
Penn National is the Dominant Force
Penn is a much bigger and more complex company than Greenwood Racing. It has many top-level partnerships and is active in every state with legal online gambling or sports betting.
Greenwood Racing hasn’t yet announced that it will pursue an online sportsbook using the Freehold Raceway license, but it is the logical next step. To date, online sports wagers have accounted for nearly 75% of New Jersey sports betting revenue.
Will the Barstool Sportsbook Partner with Freehold Raceway?
Early this year, Barstool Sports signed an exclusive deal with Penn National Gaming for nationwide sports betting and iGaming. In 2003, Barstool began as a modest sports media outlet and has since grown into a multi-media entertainment business, including online gambling.
Penn purchased a 36% stake in Barstool and will expand that to 50% over the next three years, with an option to take full ownership.
So far, Barstool Sportsbook has not yet launched in New Jersey, either online or retail. Penn may use the Barstool Sportsbook in partnership with Freehold Raceway. However, only time will tell how the retail and online sportsbooks at Freehold Raceway will unfold.