Tag Archives: Ag Equine Fund

House GOP includes horse racing in Ag Task Force report

Crain’s Detroit Business reports a Michigan House of Representatives Republican task force has laid out a plan to improve the state’s agriculture industry which includes reforms to horse racing.

The task force, chaired by Fowlerville Rep. Cindy Denby, submitted the report following a series of town hall-style meetings and tours with members of the agriculture community last summer.

Among the topics discussed, the task force reviews how the state’s racing industry reached the shaky ground on which it stands today and revealed its strategy to reverse the trend.

The report examines the racing industry’s transfer to the Michigan Gaming Control Board, the subsequent slashing of race dates and how funding to the state’s Agriculture Equine Industry Development Fund has fallen through decreased income and more outside hands taking from the proverbial cookie jar.

To combat the financial shortfalls, the task force notes the recommendation by those in the racing industry to implement “instant gaming”, which has been approved in Nebraska, among other states. One would assume the report is referring to “instant racing” which has been successful in Arkansas (Nebraska just shot down instant racing, actually), but at least they are open to the idea.

Instant racing, which allows bettors to play stripped-down versions of previously run races, is viewed by the task force as “a solution that would not be expanding gambling, yet would provide an additional source of funding for the equine industry.”

The report also notes the lack of public knowledge regarding the racing industry and its situation, and calls for an increase in efforts to educate the population about the importance of horse racing in Michigan.

The section continues with a review of the Ag Equine Fund and its declining numbers. Noted in the report are the transfers of monies to the state’s general fund, testing for bovine tuberculosis and the end of the casino wagering tax on Detroit’s three non-tribal casinos.

At the end of the report’s horse racing segment, the task force offers the following points of action…

SHORT AND LONG TERM SOLUTIONS NEEDED TO SUSTAIN THE INDUSTRY:

- Develop cooperation between the Michigan Gaming Control Board (MGCB) and racing owners to help promote Michigan horse racing.

- Amend the make-up of the MGCB by requiring inclusion of horse industry representatives on the board.

- Require transparency of the MGCB and legislative oversight of the costs associated with horse racing breed by breed.

- Educate the public on the importance of horse racing to the state’s economy.

- Restrict appropriations from the equine fund to horse racing uses.

To view the full report, click here. The section highlighting the horse racing industry begins on page 15.

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House passes ORC, industry funding bill

The Michigan House of Representatives passed a bill Thursday to partially restore funding to the state’s racing industry, including $2.5 million to the Office of Racing Commissioner.

The bill will next be put before the Senate where, if approved, it will likely do away with the announced statewide halt on live and simulcast racing on Nov. 5.

The deadline was announced following Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s veto of a previous bill to fund the ORC through licensing fees from the three non-tribal casinos in Detroit. In the current bill, the funding will come from the Ag Equine Fund, supported by a 3.5% tax on simulcast wagering and other racetrack-related income. The Associated Press reports Granholm supports the change.

Other items restored by the bill include $3.9 million to industry programs such as purse supplements, Sire Stakes purses and breeders’ awards. An additional $989,500 was allotted to “Horse Racing and Producer Security”, which supports the grain elevator industry and its suppliers.

HB 4288 passed by a margin of 105-1. For more information on the vote, click here.

According to the Michigan HBPA website, the Senate will have its first opportunity to act on the bill on Nov. 3, following a required five-day period between chamber actions.

For analysis of the bill from the House Fiscal Agency, click here.

For more information on HB 4288 and to track its progress through Lansing, the bill’s webpage can be found here.

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Granholm continues to disrespect racing industry

Sometimes, you just have to look at your government and shake your head…

The Michigan HBPA reports…

GOVERNOR STOPS HB4311: Governor Granholm has asked the legislature to not take any action on HB4311. The bill would have replaced the $2.4 million in cuts from the Ag. Equine Development Fund. These funds supported our programs such as Breeders Awards, Supplements, Stakes and Owner Awards. Her request has ended the opportunity to restore the funds, HB 4311 is done.

Once again, action in Lansing has a negative impact on our industry, as mentioned these funds are generated by the 3.5% tax on simulcasting which produces more than enough to fund our programs. It is difficult to understand a decision to stop a producer for the state. This action was anticipated based on prior action in Lansing when it comes to supporting an industry with a 75 year history  and at least 12,000 jobs.

The HBPA Board realized that this could be the outcome. In anticipation, they decided to use purse pool funding to restore our dates to 74 and support the stakes program. The decision was costly when 8 days were reduced and all the starts that will not take place, but the meet had to be saved. One can only wonder how much influence our decision to support ourselves impacted the Lansing decision. The total amount to support the ORC and Programs is $463,600. Without support from the HBPA, thoroughbred racing in Michigan would have been over. 

See? I told you this whole ordeal wasn’t over. If a happy ending is to be had, someone in Lansing will crush it.

But seriously, Gov. Granholm’s constant antagonism of her state’s racing industry is downright laughable (in that “laugh so you don’t weep” kind of way). I can’t help but look at the public support Kentucky’s governor, Steve Beshear, and Ohio’s head of state, Ted Strickland, give to their states’ racing programs (or at least a willingness to sign the right legislation) and wonder what we as a state did to deserve such an enemy of the industry in office.

The frustrating thing about Granholm’s disregard for pro-racing congressional action is that, unless I missed something, she has failed to justify any of it. There has been no public explanation for her actions as far as I can tell. The fact that she does not seem to be held accountable by anyone for this, or any of her previous atrocities against the industry, is a frightening notion. At this point, I would even be appeased by some neutral political doublespeak; just give me something.

From the HBPA’s report, it seems Pinnacle’s season won’t be affected by this bill dying. It appears those who depend on the supplemental awards will get the shaft (myself included), but at least they’ll still be putting horses the gates. However, I am not sure how this will alter things at Mount Pleasant Meadows or the state’s three harness tracks. I’ll ask around at Mount Pleasant this Sunday and see what I can find out.

On a slightly more optimistic note, it appears some state congresspeople are holding another brainstorming session in the near future (thanks, Otis). I don’t know how much good it’s going to do if the Governor is, in all likelihood, just going to shoot it down like everything else, but at least they’re still trying to figure something out.

I really don’t like it when my posts get this politically charged, but my frustration with the Governor, and a good chunk of Lansing for that matter, is reaching its boiling point. I promise the next time we meet, it will be about things that happen on the racetrack and not at the Capitol Building.

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