06/30/2006 11:00PM

Governor's order halts New Jersey racing


Racing at Monmouth Park and The Meadowlands Racetrack is among the victims of the closure of New Jersey state government after a Saturday constitutional deadline passed without a new budget in place.

Monmouth Park ran its Saturday card but halted simulcasting at 6 p.m. The Meadow-

lands canceled its Saturday night Standardbred card and stopped simulcasting at 6 p.m.

All racetracks in the state, along with the state's account wagering system, will remain closed until resolution of the budget impasse. The Monmouth racing office remained open Saturday and drew entries for its Tuesday card, with the hope that the track will be allowed to reopen for racing by then. Monmouth took entries for its Monday card on Friday.

Gov. Jon Corzine has demanded an increase in the state sales tax from 6 to 7 percent to close a projected $4.5 billion budget deficit, a proposal legislators rejected. When the deadline passed without a budget in place, Corzine signed an executive order Saturday directing an "orderly shutdown of non essential state services."

The order closed all gambling regulatory bodies, including the New Jersey Racing Commission. No gambling can be conducted in New Jersey without regulatory oversight.

The state lottery announced it would stop selling tickets at 7:55 p.m. Saturday. There was to be a final drawing that evening. The Atlantic City casinos were expected to cease gambling sometime Sunday unless they obtain a court order to remain open.

The New Jersey horsemen are considering a legal challenge to prevent a shutdown of racing.

"We are meeting with lawyers and we'll probably make an application to a judge," Dennis Drazin, president of the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, said Saturday afternoon.

"Racetracks, lotteries, you can use your common sense on some of the essentials," Corzine said in an interview on the radio station WKXW. "We're going to miss those revenues, but the fact is, we can't expend money on non-essential functions."

Dennis Dowd, senior executive vice president for the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, projected a $1 million loss if the shutdown wipes out the entire holiday weekend.

"In the interest of our fans, the horsemen and employees, we hope this temporary shutdown is just that - temporary," Dowd said.