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EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ-Five years ago, state legislators approved the opening of 15 off-track betting outlets in New Jersey, but opening any of them has been delayed by a lack of agreement on the geographical distribution of the facilities among potential operators. Now, the first two sites are finally shaping up.

The way the geography finally played out, the statewide agreement calls for the New Jersey Sports & Exposition Authority, operators of the Meadowlands Racetrack in East Rutherford, NJ and Monmouth Park in Oceanport, NJ to operate nine facilities in a region encompassing portions of a dozen Northern and Central New Jersey counties from Bergen to Ocean.

Pennwood Racing Inc., a joint venture of Greenwood Racing and Penn National Gaming that operates Freehold Raceway, will own four outlets in a half-dozen counties from Middlesex to Gloucester. And Greenwood Racing, which separately owns Philadelphia Park, will get the last two in a South Jersey territory encompassing Cumberland, Cape May, Salem and Atlantic counties.

Vineland, NJ, in Cumberland County, will likely get first call. Greenwood Racing has its application in, and plans for the facility are nearly complete, according to Dennis Dowd, SVP of racing for the NJSEA. Pending approval, the site could be operating by early next year.

The second will likely come in Woodbridge, NJ, where the NJSEA-owned facility will rise on the site of a former A&P store in the Fords section of the township. Plans unveiled recently before the Woodbridge planning board by Dowd call for a $5-million, 22,000-sf facility that would include a sports bar and a restaurant. Pending approvals, the site could be operational by next spring, according to Dowd.

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