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Garden State Race Track, Inc. v. Greenwood New Jersey

May 31, 2007


On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Camden County, Docket No. C-7-06.

Per curiam.


Submitted May 8, 2007

Before Judges R. B. Coleman and Gilroy.

Plaintiff Garden State Race Track, Inc., appeals from the June 15, 2006, order of the Chancery Division, dismissing its complaint without prejudice, and from the June 23, 2006, order denying its motion for reconsideration and dismissing the complaint with prejudice. We affirm.

Plaintiff is a New Jersey corporation that previously engaged in the business of conducting thoroughbred and harness racing at Garden State Park (GSP) in Cherry Hill. Plaintiff is a wholly-owned subsidiary of International Thoroughbred Breeders, Inc. (ITB).

On July 2, 1998, plaintiff and several other subsidiaries of ITB, entered into an Asset Purchase Agreement (Agreement) with defendants, Greenwood New Jersey, Inc. (Greenwood); GS Park Racing LP (GS Park); Pennwood Racing, Inc. (Pennwood);*fn1 Greenwood Racing, Inc. (Greenwood Racing);*fn2 and Penn National Gaming, Inc. (Penn National); collectively, the "defendants." Under the Agreement, the ITB subsidiaries agreed to sell certain assets to defendants, with the exception of "the real estate, machinery, equipment and other property used in the operation of [GSP] . . . ." Instead, plaintiff leased GSP to Greenwood. Under the Agreement, the parties agreed to identify a ten-acre parcel at GSP for Greenwood to purchase at a later date for the purpose of establishing an off-track-betting (OTB) facility.

The parties also entered into a First Amendment (Amendment) to the Agreement, which among other things, identified and provided for the transfer of the ten-acre parcel for the OTB facility, subject to several contingencies.

The Amendment included the following provision:

[I]n the event [Greenwood] is required to acquire a liquor license in its name, or the name of its nominee, for the benefit of [Greenwood's] operations at GSP and/or the OTB Facility at GSP, and [Greenwood] elects to have [plaintiff] participate in the acquisition of the liquor license, then [Greenwood] will pay the lesser of $100,000 or the purchase price toward the acquisition of a liquor license for GSP and/or the OTB Facility at GSP, and [plaintiff] will contribute the balance of the cost, if any. Furthermore, if [plaintiff] has participated in the acquisition of the liquor license, and if within three (3) years of the Closing Date, [Greenwood] no longer has a use for the license at GSP and/or the OTB Facility at GSP, [plaintiff] will have the option to acquire the liquor license from [Greenwood] at such time, by reimbursing [Greenwood] the amount [Greenwood] contributed to the acquisition of the liquor license. (emphasis added).

In December 1998, plaintiff entered into an agreement with the concessionaire at GSP to purchase its liquor license. Under the agreement, GSP's concessionaire, Service America Corporation (SAC), agreed to transfer the liquor license to plaintiff or to GS Park if GS Park entered into a lease with plaintiff to operate GSP. Plaintiff leased GSP to GS Park in January 1999, and SAC then transferred the liquor license to GS Park. GS Park operated GSP until it closed in May 2001, and at that time, GS Park discontinued its actual use of the liquor license.

On August 5, 2001, the New Jersey State Legislature approved the "Off-Track and Account Wagering Act," N.J.S.A. 5:5-127 to -160. The Act permits OTB facilities in the State of New Jersey. N.J.S.A. 5:5-128. On November 7, 2001, defendants submitted a land development application for a minor subdivision to the Cherry Hill Township Planning Board, and the Planning Board approved defendants' application on March 4, 2002. On May 6, 2002, a neighbor of GSP filed a lawsuit against the Planning Board, claiming that the Planning Board should have required defendants to have filed a major subdivision plan. On March 12, 2003, an order was entered reversing the Planning Board's approval. In June 2003, defendants filed an application for a major subdivision. On May 12, 2006, the Planning Board approved the application.

Since May 2001, defendants have paid for the annual renewal of the liquor license. On or about June 24, 2003, and on June 23, 2005, the Director of the State Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control issued Special Rulings granting defendants' petitions requesting extensions of the term of the liquor license, N.J.S.A. 33:1-12.39, through the 2005-2006 license term.

In the interim, on January 29, 2002, plaintiff informed defendants that it was exercising its option to purchase the liquor license pursuant to the Amendment because defendants were not currently using the liquor license and had not used the liquor license at GSP since GS Park vacated GSP in May 2001. Defendants refused ...

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