A developer is pushing ahead with a plan to offer sports betting at a defunct racetrack in southern New Jersey, even as the companies affiliated with the track’s former operator try to convince a federal judge that a 20-year-old document forbids that plan.

Cherry Hill Towne Center Partners wrote in a court filing this week that it is close to a deal with a company to operate a sportsbook at the former Garden State Park site in Cherry Hill, across the Delaware River from Philadelphia.

It’s the latest chapter in a year-old legal battle between the developer and companies connected to the track’s former operator over a potentially lucrative sports gambling license. Since sports gambling was legalized last year, New Jersey gamblers have wagered more than $3 billion.

Under state law, only casinos, racetracks and former racetracks can offer sports gambling. Outside of Atlantic City’s casinos, Garden State Park is one of only five locations that qualify, along with Monmouth Park, the Meadowlands, Freehold Raceway and the former Atlantic City racetrack.

Of those, only Monmouth Park and the Meadowlands currently offer sports gambling.

The last races were held at Garden State Park in 2001. Cherry Hill Towne Center Partners has developed part of the area as a mixed-use residential and retail center and sued last year for the right to open a sportsbook on the site of the former racetrack’s oval.

The defendants, who include Greenwood Racing, operator of the Parx casino north of Philadelphia, allege in court filings that a 1999 document permanently forbids any wagering activity on the site other than by Garden State Park Racing and its affiliates or successors.

They have asked a judge for a preliminary injunction against the developer, and a ruling could come in the next two months.

Meanwhile, the developer wrote in a brief filed Monday that it “expects to select one of the potential sports wagering operators shortly” and has begun to build a facility to hold a sportsbook.

It also claims the dispute over the 1999 document can’t stop it from applying for a sports gambling license with the state and noted one of its controlling members, Jack Morris, also is an owner of the Hard Rock Atlantic City casino and is in good standing with state casino regulators.

An email message seeking comment was sent to an attorney representing Greenwood Racing and the other defendants on Thursday. — (AP)

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