BetFair May Bid For Monmouth Park

BetFair, the British-based company that runs the world’s most popular betting exchange is a potential bidder for Monmouth Park, the New York state-owned thoroughbred track that Gov. Chris Christie wants to unload.

Betfair, which claims to have 3 million customers who bet more than $80 million per week, is not the only high-profile entry in the race to take the showcase Oceanport track private.

Other front-runners include Morris Bailey, who led a purchase of the Resorts Atlantic City casino for $31.5 million last year; and Jeff Seder, founder and CEO of Blow Horn Equity, which bid in a planned sale last year — later canceled — of two Maryland Jockey Club racetracks.

Christie three weeks ago said state officials would issue a request for proposals for the sale of Monmouth Park, along with rights to operate off-track wagering sites. Christie hasn’t ruled out leasing the track.

Seder said he’s been waiting to see the RFP, a document that specifies terms for a transaction.

“They say they’ll decide soon (on issuing an RFP),” Seder said. “I’ve been trying since last October to get financial info so I can bid intelligently.”

Assemblyman John Burzichelli, a Democrat from Gloucester County, said he “wouldn’t be surprised if the RFP was circulated in the next couple of days.” Burzichelli has sponsored numerous horse racing industry bills.

State officials took steps to lease both Monmouth Park and the Meadowlands Racetrack as a package in 2004 but backed off, despite standing to collect as much as $300 million annually from the winning bidder. The potential price was inflated because the Meadowlands was considered a logical site at the time for installation of slot machines. Christie says he is against expanding casino gambling outside Atlantic City.

Churchill Downs Inc., which hosts the Kentucky Derby and owns four racetracks as well as other slot and gaming operations, was involved in the 2004 bidding. Spokeswoman Julie Koenig declined to say whether the company still has an interest in coming here.

Betfair wants to raise its stake in the New Jersey racing industry, said Stephen Burn, the chief executive officer for the TVG horse racing television network, a Betfair subsidiary.

The company broadened its U.S. presence in 2009 when it bought TVG for $50 million.

Betfair has successfully lobbied to bring exchange wagering to New Jersey. The new eBay form of gambling, where bettors with opposing opinions are paired at fixed odds, was signed into law by Christie on Jan. 31, though the program is on hold until the betting rules are reviewed by the state Attorney General’s Office.

Burn said Betfair is anxious for a formal sale or lease process to begin.

“We’re keen to understanding any opportunities that will increase our presence in New Jersey,” Burn said. “We’ve been in the state for a number of years with New Jersey tracks being featured on TVG since the late 1990s.”

Betfair is bullish on the New Jersey racing industry, Burn said — despite Christie repeatedly stating that racing is a losing bet when tracks are owned by taxpayers.

“New Jersey has a fantastic horse racing heritage. Betfair and TVG are absolutely committed to having a role. The racing product at Monmouth Park was vastly superior last summer. Similarly, the Meadowlands presents the most eminent harness racing destination in North America,” he said.


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