Freehold gets in sports bet biz

Just a few weeks removed from a very successful Meadowlands return to harness racing, the nation’s oldest and fastest daytime half-mile harness track — Freehold Raceway — gets its coronavirus return to racing in the Garden State on Friday with a full race card.

But the big news isn’t that the trotters and pacers are back.

The track, located off Route 9 South, is also gearing up for its autumn entry on the sportsbook landscape as Parx Sportsbook at Freehold Raceway has already begun the process of hiring tellers, managers, supervisors, surveillance operators, security officers and other administrative positions.

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The Freehold sportsbook is scheduled to open Thursday, Sept. 10 for the first NFL game of the 2020 season as the Houston Texans visit the Kansas City Chiefs.

“Parx Sportsbook at Freehold Raceway is tentatively set to open for the first NFL game, but that date may slip due to several factors,” said Matthew Cullen, Parx Casino’s senior vice president of interactive gaming and sports. “Several roles have been filled and still need to be filled on the team. We will have live tellers at opening, as well as self-service kiosks.”

The new sportsbook will be located inside the area known as Favorites on the ground floor of the track facility. It will be a nice addition for sports bettors who don’t have mobile accounts and don’t want to drive to Monmouth Park, where William Hill operates the track’s sportsbook.

“We haven’t raced since early March, so we are excited to be back in action,” said Karen Fagliarone, Freehold’s director of racing. “Our opening day is this Friday and we will continue racing two days a week, (Friday and Saturday) through December with the exception of a Thursday on New Year’s Eve.

“Our new meet will begin in January; however we have not yet applied for 2021 dates so I cannot give you any dates past Dec. 2020.”

Freehold will become the state’s 11th retail venue with a sportsbook on property and the third race track in the state to have a brick-and mortar facility, joining the Meadowlands and Monmouth.

Last year, all racetracks and casinos in the Garden State combined for an impressive $299.4 million in gross revenue. With the addition of a sportsbook at Freehold, this will expand sports offerings to bettors in three regions of the state.

Also, Parx Racing is 10 miles away from the Jersey border. Penn National Gaming and Greenwood Racing are equal owners of Parx Racing in Bensalem, Penn., and Freehold Raceway. Penn National operates 42 properties in 19 states and has a presence in the sports betting states of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Nevada, Iowa, Indiana, Illinois, Mississippi and West Virginia.

“A lot of our retail casino customers (about one third) come from New Jersey, so it’s a natural extension for us to offer Parx retail and online sports wagering in New Jersey,” said Cullen. “We already offer Parx online and mobile casino in New Jersey and have since last October.”