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Former operator of Garden State Park plans restaurant, bar off Route 70

8th February, 10:27

CHERRY HILL - The former operator of Garden State Park has proposed building an off-track betting facility at the former racetrack.

GS Park Racing wants to operate a 30,000-square-foot facility with a bar and restaurant, according to a legal ad.

The building, also intended for "all other legal gaming activities," would rise on a 10-acre site at Route 70 and Garden State Boulevard.

The proposal comes as GSPR is engaged in a court battle with a development firm that wants to open a sports-betting parlor elsewhere at the former track.

GSPR contends a restrictive covenant, in effect since 1999, gives its the exclusive right to offer "gambling and gaming of any sort" at the former track, which closed in 2001.

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But a firm developing the rest of the 212-acre property contends a state law allows it to offer sports betting inside the former racetrack oval.

The developer, Cherry Hill Towne Center Partners LLC., argues the covenant held by GSPR is "overly broad" and does not mention sports betting.

U.S. District Judge Renee Bumb ruled last September that GSPR "will likely prevail on its position." But she declined to issue an injunction barring the rival proposal while the fight continues.

The planning board is expected to consider GSPR's proposal at its Feb. 18 meeting, according to the ad. The firm is seeking preliminary and final major site plan approval.

GSPR is not requesting variances for project, but will seek "any and all variances that may be required as a result of recommendations or requirements of the board or its professional review staff," the ad says.

GSPR's parent company, Greenwood Racing, owns Parx Casino and an adjacent racetrack in Bensalem, Pennsylvania, as well as off-track betting parlors in Philadelphia and Valley Forge.

Attorneys for GSPR and Cherry Hill Towne Center could not be reached for immediate comment Saturday.

The dispute began shortly after a state law authorized sports betting in June 2018, Bumb's ruling noted.

Cherry Hill Towne Center last year began preparing a site for a betting parlor in Towne Place at Garden State Park, a shopping center off Haddonfield Road.

That project, which is behind Zinburger, appears far from completion, however.

GSPR's property is vacant land outside the former racing oval.

A GSPR attorney contacted the developer shortly after the law took effect, noting the covenant's restrictions and "anticipating that you would be interested in discussing this matter with our client."

According to Bumb's ruling, Cherry Hill Towne Center then sought a court order allowing its parlor to open. In turn, GSPR requested the preliminary injunction.

A status conference for the case is scheduled for March 6, according to court records.

Jim Walsh is a free-range reporter who's been roaming around South Jersey for decades. His interests include crime, the courts, economic development and being first with breaking news. Reach him at jwalsh@gannettnj.com or look for him in traffic.

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