Total ORC layoffs could end Michigan’s racing season, simulcasting

The Michigan HBPA website reports…

SERIOUS HIT: Racing Commissioner White today issued lay-off notices to all the Office of the Racing Commissioner Staff effective Friday, June 26, 2009. That means thoroughbred racing will run less than 25 days and it also includes the closing of ALL simulcasting statewide. It is reported, Michigan treasurer indicated without funding for the ORC it will not continue to pay the bills effective June 26, 2009. State law requires all employees are given at 15 days notice for any lay-off.

Someone, please make sense of our governments idea to help with jobs and generate revenue you shut down a revenue producing industry. Our industry produces its own money for funding the ORC. Through May 31, 2009 the industry has produced an excess of 3 MILLION DOLLARS MORE THAN ENOUGH TO PAY ALL THE ORC EXPENSES FOR 2009! Our horsemen have paid for and deserve stability, something non-existent at the present time. If this stays in effect, this industry will disappear to other states at a much faster rate than currently.

One can only conclude our competitors are winning, get us gone. Unfortunately, with our elected officials help! We  have been Lansing over and over again, talking to the legislature and Governor, the more  we fight for life, the closer we are to death. “Action speaks louder, than words.”

On the line, over 12, 000 jobs and over $400 million in economic impact. Michigan does not have the luxury to eliminate any revenue producer, it should be, how can we help them produce more. I guess, therefore Michigan’s national reputation. How sad.

Facts:

2008 State Income from pari-mutuel racing:……………………   $8,130,580

2008 Office of Racing Comm. Expenses:… ……………………….3,227,848

2009  State Income from pari-mutuel racing thru 5/31/09:……..3,172,400

Now, someone explain the infinite wisdom being offered by our leaders in Lansing. We have the products for growth, Lansing says no the importance of our jobs and money. It makes no sense, we bring revenue to Lansing and now they are indicating we do not want it. What is up with that? Racing is only one small activity for Lansing, and look at the mess.

THANKS LANSING, It has been a great 75 years!

The Office of Racing Commissioner’s website has not posted anything confirming or denying the layoffs, but if there is any truth to the report, this is armageddon. It’s all over.

Clearly,this is very much a developing story. If I find out anything else, you’ll see it here.

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11 Comments

Filed under Commentary, Politics

11 responses to “Total ORC layoffs could end Michigan’s racing season, simulcasting

  1. I thought I read in just the last couple of days that a bill was being pushed threw Lansing that would provide money to restore the racing dates. Here’s a link from DRF. http://www.drf.com/news/article/104592.html.
    Would the people in charge please make up their mind!

  2. mibredclaimer

    Bill,
    I heard about that too. It seemed promising, but it has a long way to go before it becomes a reality. Plus, Gov. Granholm seems dead-set against signing it, so it looks like it’s going to die on her table if it even makes it there in the first place.

    After everything I have heard, all the meetings I have sat through and all the counter-offers and legislative help proposed, I am becoming convinced the ORC is perfectly content to just keel over and die.

  3. Andrew

    Its quite obvious there is more to this story, maybe we’ll never find out the details. I had to reread the announcement because I couldn’t believe it. At the very least, with how much our state is struggling, there is definitely some benefit for the state in simulcasting. As soon as the tracks close, watch all the casinos get simulcasting. Soaring Eagle takes the MPM customers, Fruitport takes the old GLD customers, Detroit casinos take the Northville, Hazel Park and Pinnacle customers, etc. I guess the state might get their money after all, with no regard to the industry that created it.

  4. mibredclaimer

    Andrew,
    When the income is double the expenses (assuming the HBPA’s numbers are correct) and the ORC is still going belly-up, there almost certainly more to the story. I’m working on finding out what exactly that is.

    Like I was discussing with you earlier, if the tracks go down, we need to do everything we can to get that bill to get simulcasting in the casinos tabled. If the casinos’ simulcast is the only pari-mutuel wagering option available, I guarantee you it will render the live product obsolete in this state.

  5. Andrew

    Joe,

    Have you heard any word of the casinos planning to introduce such a bill? I haven’t read anything regarding this, just speculation, but at this point I almost expect it to happen. If they want it, they’ll probably get it. If they could get the voters to prevent racinos, I’m sure they can get the voters to approve simulcasting in tribal casinos.

    Otis,

    You are absolutely correct, the current law prevents anyone holding a casino license or not conducting live racing from offering simulcasting. But don’t you think the casinos might try to change the law if every racetrack were to close? Other states allow tribal casinos to simulcast racing without the live product. Now, it looks like the Motor City casino will get virtual racing, which is sort of similar to simulcasting.

    What I don’t understand, is why can’t the laws be modified to permit racetracks to continue simulcasting without ORC supervision? If we reach a point where all the tracks are going to close, why not keep them open for the simo? Heck, they’d probably be happy about that and finally be able to turn a profit. Plus, there would be hope for a return of live racing in the future, especially at Pinnacle. I’d rather see that then watch the facilities be demolished with no hope of racing ever returning. Unfortunately, looks like that might happen…

  6. mibredclaimer

    Otis & Andrew,

    I’ve heard rumblings of something like that being in the works, but I’m not sure if it any official steps have been taken yet.

    With the casinos’ tendency to bend the rules to their favor, this just feels like one of those things where the risks outweigh the benefits of the extra simulcast handle.

    As for simulcasting without the ORC, it would definitely help keep the tracks alive if things shut down, but lots of people would find “integrity of the sport” issues with it. If there were ever a past posting incident at one of the tracks or some other kind of shifty wagering without some kind of regulatory body overseeing things, it would make the entire state look like it’s gone rogue.

    With Michigan’s already shaky reputation in terms of honesty in racing (See: Roberto Perez, 2006; Houghton, Valdes, Douglas, et al, 2007), the tracks, especially one still trying to establish its reputation like Pinnacle, can’t afford to take a hit like that.

  7. As a harness fan, this makes no sense either. However, in New Jersey, another state where racing is on life support, we have the same lunacy regarding the state paying the salaries for the racing commissions. Once, when there was a budget impasse, racing had to stop because the state could not pay the salaries for the employees, yet the tracks pay the state for the employees. Same thing happened to the casinos.

    Can’t say for sure, but to an outsider, it seems like someone is trying to kill the racing industry off. The question is who and why.

  8. Andrew

    Joe,

    There would have to be some type of regulatory body overseeing simulcasting. It seems like I remember other states consolidating their racing commission into the gaming or lottery board. Wasn’t there even talk of this in MI?

    It would seem to me like simulcasting would be much easier to regulate then live racing. I don’t have a fine understanding of the legislation and regulatory process, but it sure seems like the state could afford the necessary staff to at least allow simulcasting, if modifications were made to the laws.

    You bring up a good point though, the credibility of pari-mutuel wagering in MI has taken some serious hits. Without the ORC, any other regulatory body may not be able to assure the public of the game’s integrity.

  9. mibredclaimer

    Pacingguy,
    In regards to racing shutting down because of budget issues, that nearly happened in Michigan a few years back. The state Legislature couldn’t get its act together and approve the budget, so all state services, including the racing commission, were in danger of being shut down until they got something done. I think they actually were shut down for a few post-midnight hours, but they threw the budget together before we lost any race days.

    Some days I wonder how the government manages to turn the lights on in the morning without imploding on itself.

    I agree with you though, it just doesn’t feel like all the misfortunes the state’s racing industry has faced are just a series of coincidences. I’m working on finding out the answers to who and why if that is indeed the case.

    Andrew,
    Right now, if the ORC is to be consolidated, the two leading candidates to take it are the Department of Agriculture and the Gaming Control Board. There has been quite a bit of talk about this and I believe there is something going through the Senate right now to do just that.

    I would assume if the state ever abandoned the live product and only simulcast remained, the Gaming Board would become a huge favorite. Without the “horse” part of it, it just becomes gambling and the Dept. of Ag becomes less necessary.

    As for modifying the laws to allow simulcasting to stay on line, I don’t know if anything could get through Lansing fast enough to do much good, especially with the head honcho’s chilliness toward signing racing-related legislation.

    • Otis

      There were some rumors floating around last year that West Virginia would consolidate their racing comish. into their lottery department.

      Now, using the recent developments in Delaware this would be ideal here in Michigan.

      The ORC is folded into the lottery. Then the lottery comish declares any additional gaming at the tracks to be part of the lottery system and thus circumventing 2004.

      Yeah, yeah, yeah … I know it’s a pipe dream.

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