Lease signed for possible OTW parlor in Gloucester Twp.

Favorites at Toms River. The new site, if it clears all hurdles, would be Favorites at Gloucester Township.
Favorites at Toms River. The new site, if it clears all hurdles, would be Favorites at Gloucester Township.
Posted: January 19, 2013

Plans are under way to turn a former restaurant in Gloucester Township into New Jersey's fifth free-standing offtrack wagering operation.

A lease was signed this week for the building at 1300 Blackwood-Clementon Rd. that had housed the Stone Grille, Chris McErlean, vice president of racing for Penn National Gaming Inc., said Thursday.

The site, which would have a restaurant and bar, would be known as Favorites at Gloucester Township. It shares a name with three other OTWs now open in the state.

A state law that went into effect in 2002 allows for up to 15 offtrack betting parlors in New Jersey where horse-racing wagers may be placed. The license for the Gloucester Township site is one of four assigned to Freehold Raceway, which Penn National and Greenwood Racing own in a partnership named Pennwood.

Pennwood operates a Favorites in a former supermarket in Toms River, Ocean County, and is scouting two sites in Middlesex and Mercer Counties, McErlean said.

A Maple Shade location had been considered by Penn National, he said. But the Wyomissing, Pa., company opted for Gloucester Township instead.

Penn National has not yet filed an application for the Gloucester Township OTW with the state Racing Commission, which must approve the operation, said the agency's deputy director, Michael Vukcevich.

The project also must clear local regulatory hurdles, including permits for interior work and the transfer of a liquor license, McErlean said.

"We're expecting the whole process will take six to eight months," he said, adding the company hopes to open the 15,000-square-foot Favorites at Gloucester Township by the end of the summer.

It would employ about 50 people and be open daily from noon to 2 a.m., McErlean said.

Mayor David R. Mayer said the OTW would be a plus for the township.

"It's going to create jobs and bring along with it further economic development along a corridor that has been hurting, but is seeing some revitalization," he said. "It will bring people into Gloucester Township to spend their money."

Penn National's plans for Gloucester Township followed regulations adopted last year aimed at speeding up the process to open more OTWs in the state, Vukcevich said.

"There's a lot of activity going on out there in terms of negotiations," he said, indicating more announcements could come soon.

Some of the proceeds from the wagering parlors go to the state's struggling horse-racing industry, and horse owners had complained about the slow pace in opening them.

Greenwood, which owns the Parx Casino & Racetrack in Bensalem, operates a Favorites in Vineland, N.J., on a license based on the company's 100 percent ownership of Atlantic City Race Course. It has another OTW license and reportedly is looking for a place in Atlantic County.

McErlean said Penn National would own 100 percent of the Gloucester Township destination under an agreement with its Freehold racecourse partner, Greenwood.

Another Favorites, in Woodbridge, N.J., opened in 2007 and is operated by the owners of Monmouth Park. An OTW called Winners opened last summer in Bayonne, N.J.

Offtrack wagering also is available at seven Atlantic City casinos and the state's four race tracks.

Penn National operates 29 gaming facilities in 18 states and Ontario, Canada.


Contact Joseph Gambardello

at 856-779-3844 or jgambardello@phillynews.com.

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