Accomplishing the collective goals of Michigan’s racing industry will be easier if its factions work together, stated the common rhetoric of speakers during an industry meeting last Friday at Pinnacle Race Course.
Representatives from Michigan’s racetracks and horsemen’s groups, as well as the Office of Racing Commissioner and other members of state government, met under the track’s patio to make connections, discuss the direction of racing in the state, and introduce newly appointed Acting Racing Commissioner, Patricia Lockwood.
After recent announcements by Gov. Jennifer Granholm rekindled the possibility of alternative wagering in Michigan’s racetracks to help close Michigan’s gaping budget deficit, there was much to discuss.
The event, largely organized by breeder Ron Fitzgerald, was hosted by Pinnacle owner Jerry Campbell.
Campbell encouraged those in attendance to contact their state representatives and inform them of the benefits Michigan’s racing industry can have for the state’s economy.
“We want to work hard with our leaders in Lansing to see if we can get something done and help solve the budget crisis,” Campbell said.
Michigan Harness Horsemen’s Association President Brett Boyd said he called Campbell, among many others, shortly after hearing about Granholm’s statements.
“My message to Jerry was I think we need to strike while the anvil’s hot,” Boyd said. “The opportunity is absolutely at our fingertips.”
Throughout the meeting, speakers discussed the immediate goal of implementing instant racing terminals with the long term goal of full-fledged racinos. Campbell said these additions could potentially quadruple purses at the state’s five racetracks.
However, an old foe stands in the way.
“Unfortunately, Proposal 1 is one of the most magnificently drafted pieces of legislation ever,” Boyd said. “It creates a lot of hurdles and obstacles for our businesses.”
Despite this challenge, Boyd was optimistic the state’s budget situation could be the factor that tips the scales in the racing industry’s favor.
“Never in history, and I’ve been around a while, have I seen the appetite of our state reps be so willing to help,” he said. “And now they have a problem we can help them solve.
Other speakers included the following:
- Patti Dickinson, Michigan Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association President
- Gary Tinkle, Michigan Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association Executive Director
- Larry Julian, Former state representative and Michigan Equine Partnership Legislative Liason
- Mike Huckleberry, State Representative (D-Greenville)
- Tony Cunningham, Great Lakes Quarter Horse Association President
- Cindy Denby, State Representative (R-Fowlerville)
- Mike Sadler, Chief of Staff of Rep. Mike Simpson (D-Jackson)
- Jack Krasula, Pinnacle Race Course Director
Acting Commissioner Lockwood delivered the final speech of the meeting, in which she said her office was ready to work for the benefit of the industry. Lockwood also expressed an openness to communicate and cooperate with the state’s horsemen, which she proved immediately by staying well after the meeting to visit with those in attendance.
“I know you’ve gone through a string of racing commissioners and you always feel like you’re starting again,” L0ckwood told the audience. “I can tell you that’s not the case here.
“I’m very up to speed on what the issues are, the challenges are,” she continued. “We’re going to be working on your behalf.”
Readers interested in finding out how to help support Michigan’s racing industry are encouraged to contact their horsemen’s groups for further information. Behind the jump is a list of organizations that would be happy to assist horsemen and race fans alike in supporting the industry during this critical time. If any groups have been omitted, feel free to mention them in comments.