he Hanson Commission released a supplemental report Monday evening saying there is no way New Jersey can support two state-run tracks. For that reason, it proposes ending live racing at the Meadowlands Racetrack in East Rutherford and consolidating it at Monmouth Park in Oceanport, more than an hour's drive south, starting in 2011
The plan also calls for the two tracks to be sold to the private sector. The Meadowlands Racetrack, part of the Meadowlands Sports Complex, would be used as an off-track betting facility under the plan.
"We have reached the conclusion that there is no viable self-sustaining industry model based upon two government-operated race tracks," the commission wrote. "Consequently, we present a direct and difficult solution to a problem that has been in the making for decades."
Hall of Fame driver John Campbell, harness racing's all time leader in earnings and six-time winner of the Hambletonian, called the proposal "unbelievable." "This will devastate the whole harness racing, training and breeding industry in the state of New Jersey," he said.
Tom Luchento, president of the Standardbred Breeders and Owners Association of New Jersey, said the panel's recommendations would wipe out racing in the Garden State. "I can't believe the governor can fall for this," Luchento said. "I can't believe he drank this much Kool-Aid from the casinos. I can't. He's an intelligent guy.
"It's completely and utterly a death sentence," Luchento said. "The harness and thoroughbred and breeding and other industries such as the pleasure horses depend on us. They will go down, too. When the veterinarians and the farmers leave and even the hay people and blacksmiths, they fold up, too, in the state. They will all fold."
Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak said the Republican governor is studying the recommendation, and he declined further comment.