New Jersey Government Shutdown Resolved; Monmouth Cancels Friday Racing

Though New Jersey's governor and lawmakers reached a deal Thursday on a new state budget, six days into a state government shutdown, live racing and afternoo simulcasts at Monmouth Park were canceled again Friday.

In a statement released early Friday, officials at the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority reported that Friday racing was called off while they awaited the return to work of state personnel who oversee different aspects of racing in the state. The statement said the status of harness racing Friday night at the Meadowlands would be determined later in the day.

During a Friday morning interview on "The Meadowlands Insider," NJSEA vice president of racing operations Chris McErlean said the tracks are "in a holding pattern. As soon as we get word, there's a two-hour turnaround time. We apologize for the uncertainty, but we're in the same boat as everyone else."

Authorization to resume racing won't come until the budget is "signed, sealed, and delivered," McErlean said.

Gov. Jon Corzine said the government shutdown that closed casinos and racetracks and threw more than 80,000 people out of work would end in the next 24 to 36 hours. Budget bills first must pass both the Senate and Assembly, he said.

"Meadowlands and Monmouth Park are grateful that it appears the legislators and governor have reached an agreement in principle for a budget," McErlean said in a statement released late Thursday afternoon. "We are still on a minute-by-minute basis and will update our Web sites and phone lines as soon as we know we can open. We thank our horsemen and our fans for their patience."

For racing to resume, the judges and stewards, the state veterinarians, the licensing and testing staffs and the pari-mutuel auditor, all state employees, must be present.

The deal will increase the state sales tax from 6% to 7 % and use half the $1.1 billion that it will raise to help lower property taxes, which are among the highest in the nation. It allows the possibility that, in future years, the entire increase will go to property tax relief.

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