‘Sports Betting’ Finished First At Monmouth Park Even Before It Was Legal

Written By Grant Lucas on June 11, 2018
Monmouth Park

Dennis Drazin has vaulted himself from simple businessman to first-ballot hall-of-fame troll.

This weekend was supposed to be Monmouth Park’s first steps toward redemption. The New Jersey racetrack was eager to debut its luxurious William Hill sportsbook in time for Game 4 of the NBA Finals and ahead of what would become a Triple Crown champion at Belmont Stakes the following day.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, though, wasn’t quite as anxious to roll out legalized sports betting within the state’s borders  Instead, Murphy was creeping down the turnpike in the left lane, 30 miles per hour below the speed limit, left blinker on. (Editor’s note: Murphy signed the bill shortly before this piece was published, but the rest of this story still applies).

Monmouth was set to open its sportsbook over this past weekend. But with Murphy hesitating on sports betting legislation, the racetrack had to suspend its sports betting plans. Fortunately for us, Drazin is our Ferris Bueller to Murphy’s Ed Rooney.

First: A primer

The 72-year-old Monmouth Park has been mired in economic woes for some time. Its purses dealt to race winners have come from the track’s own pockets, which have become so bare that the felt has been scratched through. Monmouth was primed to begin offering sports betting six or so years ago, until the sports leagues took Jersey to court, shelving Monmouth’s first attempt at an alternative source of revenue.

Drazin, president and CEO of the racetrack, was a driving force in New Jersey’s fight, which paid off in May as the US Supreme Court struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act to open the door for legalized sports betting. Monmouth had its second chance, and Drazin announced a partnership with British bookmaker William Hill to construct a $2.5 million sportsbook lounge.

This past weekend was rife with big-name betting opportunities: the Golden State Warriors closing out the Cleveland Cavaliers for yet another NBA title, the New York Yankees and New York Mets squaring off in an MLB Subway Series, Justify taking to Belmont to become the 13th Triple Crown winner. But Murphy was not ready to let 1,500 Ferris Bueller disciples run around and jeopardize his ability to govern the student body.

“We’re not going to sit on it, but we just got it,” Murphy said of the betting bill that sailed through the state Assembly and Senate like Usain Bolt running the 100-meter dash against middle-schoolers. “We’re going to have sports betting sooner (rather) than later in New Jersey and I’m really excited about that. I’m not going to change my stripes just because it’s a big weekend. We’ve got to make sure we do what we do right.”

Because Murphy did not sign the legislation, it was still illegal to offer sports betting. Monmouth couldn’t accept wagers until Murphy put pen to paper.

“I’m trying to get open as soon as I can,” Drazin said in response. “But at the end of the day I have a responsibility to Monmouth Park and the state and the local community. If I do something that causes Monmouth Park to get delayed in opening, then that doesn’t help anybody, so I have to respect the process.”

Which makes me wonder how much Drazin cackled after walking away from this interview, because while Murphy barred Drazin’s plans to roll out sports betting, the Monmouth CEO could not be stopped from trotting out Sports Betting.

Debut victory for colt, Drazin, everyone

When sports betting is ultimately legalized in New Jersey, a plaque with Drazin’s likeness should grace the front doors of every sportsbook in New Jersey.

In Monmouth Park’s first race Sunday was a 2-year-old colt owned by Drazin: Sports Betting.

Instead of giving a rudimentary play-by-play of what happened next, let’s bring in Monmouth Park track announcer Frank Mirahmadi to set the scene for the finish of the $36,000 maiden special weight race:

“A sixteenth to go, and it’s Sports Betting (ridden by) Paco Lopez. We salute Dennis Drazin. An amazing job getting Sports Betting home.”

Oh, yeah. Chick. Chicka chicka.

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Grant Lucas

Grant Lucas is a longtime sports writer who has covered the high school, collegiate and professional levels. A graduate of Linfield College in McMinnville, Grant has covered games and written features and columns surrounding prep sports, Linfield and Oregon State athletics, the Portland Trail Blazers and golf.

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