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Jul 06, 2006

New Jersey budget crisis forces tracks to close


East Rutherford, NJ (Sports Network) - The New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority announced Wednesday afternoon that the two racetracks it operates will remain closed during New Jersey's budget crisis. New Jersey's legislature has been unable to pass a state budget.

"Given the hour-to-hour nature of the negotiations, we will take each program day-by-day," said Chris McErlean, The Meadowlands Vice President for Racing Operations.

"We are moving forward with the expectations of offering live racing on Thursday night and will make a decision early Thursday afternoon," continued McErlean. A decision about Monmouth Park’s live thoroughbred racing on Thursday afternoon will be made early Thursday morning.

The government of the state of New Jersey has been closed since the end of the fiscal year on Friday, June 30. Only essential programs, such as the state police, remain in operation.

The New Jersey Racing Commission is not deemed essential and is closed during the budget impasse. The Commission oversees the horse racing industry in the Garden State.

The shut down affects live racing and simulcasting. July is a big month for both thoroughbred and harness racing in New Jersey. Saturday, July 8 the $750,000 United Nations Handicap is scheduled. The following Saturday is the Long Branch Stakes, a prep race for the $1 million Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park.

The Meadowlands is the country's leader in harness racing. The $1 million Meadowlands Pace is scheduled for Saturday, July 15 with elimination races taking place the prior week.

Leon Zimmerman, a harness racing lobbyist, is concerned about the economic impact. "It's a billion dollar industry," noted Zimmerman. "It it's not functioning it affects veterinarian services, grain and hay, the construction of barns and fencing," continued Zimmerman.

Freehold Raceway and Atlantic City Race Course would normally be opened only for simulcasting. Freehold is scheduled to resume live racing in August and Atlantic City conducts live racing just a few days during the spring.

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