12/18/2003 12:00AM

N.J. tracks to explore market

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The board of directors of the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority approved a plan on Wednesday to explore the possibility of leasing Monmouth Park and The Meadowlands, the two remaining New Jersey Thoroughbred racetracks.

According to an announcement by the NJSEA, the board directed the investment-banking firm Lehman Brothers to serve as its adviser and draw up an offering sheet to seek proposals.

"No decision has been made to lease either racetrack," George Zoffinger, NJSEA's president and chief executive, said in a statement. "Today's decision was simply to explore the marketplace."

The Meadowlands, located near New York City in heavily populated northern New Jersey, handles more money in a year than any other single wagering site in the United States. Monmouth Park is located on the Jersey Shore in Oceanport. Two weeks ago, officials for the Breeders' Cup visited the track as part of a process to consider Monmouth as the site of the 2007 Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships.

The decision to explore a lease comes at a time when New Jersey racing interests are attempting to implement offtrack wagering and telephone betting in the state. Any expansion of wagering in the state would have a dramatic impact on the worth of the two tracks.