11/28/2012 2:39PM

Monmouth Park moving forward with sports betting plans

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Monmouth Park in New Jersey intends to move forward with plans to offer sports betting while a host of legal issues surrounding the practice remain unresolved, a top official of the track said Wednesday.

The plans include renovations of an area of the track’s grandstand to create a Las Vegas-style sportsbook, in the hopes of offering at least “free play” on sports contests by Jan. 9, the earliest that the New Jersey Gaming Commission will award a license to conduct sports betting, according to Dennis Drazin, chairman of Monmouth’s operating company. Monmouth will go ahead with the renovations despite legal challenges mounted by most major professional sports leagues and despite the specter that the federal government may seek to intervene, Drazin said.

A U.S. District Court in New Jersey is scheduled to hear arguments about the legality of sports betting Dec. 18. The court could decide at that time to grant an injunction to the leagues that would prohibit anyone from offering sports betting.

Last week, the court gave notice to the U.S. attorney general that it has until Jan. 20 to file any objections to the New Jersey law passed earlier this year legalizing sports betting. For that reason, it’s possible that the District Court judge may wait until late January to rule in the case.

Monmouth Park, which is being operated by the state’s horsemen under a long-term lease with New Jersey, has filed arguments in the case seeking to resolve whether sports betting in New Jersey violates federal law. Still, the track plans to give customers the ability to make promotional bets, without any live money at risk, at the earliest opportunity, Drazin said.

“Before we take a live bet, we may have to wait for the court to give us further direction,” Drazin said.