Positive signs?

Who knew all Michigan racing needed to get Lansing on its side with alternative wagering was a major economic collapse and a budget deficit the size of Montana?

The Michigan HBPA website reports…

PULL TABS AT RACE TRACKS: As the state scrambles to complete the budget process for 2009-10, discussions have centered around allowing tracks to offer  “lottery pull tab” machines to generate needed state revenue and assist the tracks in the challenge to stay in business. The MI-HBPA has supported for years additional gaming at the race tracks and are very interested in working with Lansing to develop a comprehensive plan for additional gaming. As expected, the “pull tab” proposal must follow the requirements set in the passage of Prop 1 in 2004. Pull tabs, as well as, VLT’s will need local and statewide approval.

The MI-HBPA is currently working on proposals for VLT’s and internet account wagering (ADW’s) on horse racing to assist in saving our industry. As the challenges grow with the approval for VLT’s in Ohio to maintain our horse population, we look forward to working with Lansing to get it right. Serious efforts need to be coordinated to develop a comprehensive package to generate state revenue and the needed revenue to save the racing industry.

A comprehensive plan will offer the state millions and save an industry with a 76 year history of being a producer without the need for state subsidies. The racing industry is willing to work with the state to support a much higher take than currently offered by the casinos throughout the state, at least double. The MI-HBPA is committed to working with all parties in developing a fair plan for all as we face extinction.

Additional gaming that belongs in a comprehensive plan:

1) VLT’s at all race tracks as Ohio, Penn, Indiana and West Virginia

2) Advanced Deposit Wagering (ADW’s) internet wagering on horse racing in Michigan currently is projected to be 60 million dollars, money leaving the state to wager on horse racing and the state, horsemen and tracks gain -0- from the activity, because wagering on the internet in Michigan on horse racing is illegal. So, it goes on with no controls, no revenue and continues to grow nationally. One ADW company in Michigan has enjoyed over a 50% gain in the first quarter of 2009 while our simulcasting wagering is in a nose dive and industry all but gone.

3) Intstant Racing machines to allow wagering on archived races.

Basically, with the race tracks involved in the gaming business, they should be allowed to compete fairly for the gaming dollar and offer any game that any competitor offers. Competition is good for the consumer.

While Pull Tabs would certainly be a welcome addition to Michigan’s racetracks, hopefully the state does not see them as a way to appease the industry and stop there. Pull Tabs are indeed very entertaining. I myself am a frequent player when I visit my local bars and dining establishments. However, Pull Tabs must be seen as a first step toward bigger and better things, not an ultimate solution. Pull Tabs are more of an impulse item, while casino-style gaming is a destination. Still, anything to boost the purse structure will be greeted with open arms.

One thing that strikes me as odd about the push for Pull Tabs is it appears the tracks must adhere to the demands of Proposal 1 to install the machines. However, if my memory serves me correctly, the Pull Tab machines in my local establishments were installed well after the 2004 election without any kind of electoral hubbub. Proposal 1 was written to stop Racinos, but I was under the impression it applied to everyone not granted immunity by its language. Surely the racing interests have people on their side better versed in the intricacies of Prop 1 than myself, but if the Double 6 bar in McBride, Michigan can get Pull Tabs without anyone raising a fuss, there is little reason to treat racetracks differently.

In related news, it appears Gov. Jennifer Granholm is (finally) on board with the possibility of implementing alternative wagering. Granholm was on WWJ Newsradio 950 Thursday to discuss placing an expanded gaming issue on a future ballot to help preserve the state’s education programs, namely scholarships for college students and laid off workers returning to school. The interview and a small write-up can be found here.

While having the governor publicly support the cause for expanded gaming is definitely a big positive for the movement, forgive me if I take a “wait and see” approach to her statements. Granholm’s track record with the racing industry has been less than stellar during her time in the executive position, most recently shooting down a bill to help restore supplemental funds to Michigan’s horsemen. Cuts like these would have been much easier to swallow if the governor had shown the same openness to expanded gaming then as she is now.

Until the talk turns into action, I approach all of these developments with cautious optimism.

For additional coverage on Gov. Granholm’s newfound support of racinos, a WLNS Channel 6 feature focusing on Sports Creek Raceway can be found here. The link to the video is in the upper left hand corner.


Filed under Commentary, Politics

7 responses to “Positive signs?

  1. ahorseofadifferentcolor

    too little, too late?

  2. mibredclaimer

    I wouldn’t go as far as to say “Too little, too late.” As long as there is a track open in the state, it’s not too late.

    However, it is VERY late in the game for the state to be getting on board. I fail to see how much has changed in the last year, or even several years, to suddenly flip the switch.

    If this really does go down though, I think a better phrase would be “Better late than never.”

  3. BWT

    Could it be that fact finders investigating government waste are hitting a little close to home – perhaps the office of her husband? Is this current proclamation supposed to pull all Michigan horseman together to give her a big pat on the back? A slap in the back of the head would be a more likely response – I’m with you mibredclaimer – let’s wait and see what she tries to pull next before we lavish her with praise.

  4. mibredclaimer

    Well, we are coming up to an election year. If a move like this can win over the racing and education interests in one swoop, that’s a nice block of votes.

  5. ragman

    Wednesday’s Detroit Free Press..Top lawmakers try to resolve budget. House Speaker Andy Dillon indicated that racinos isn’t under serious consideration…..
    Also today the anti-gambling folks in Ohio get their day in court.
    I see the the MI-HBPA keeps insisting that gambling on the Internet in Mi is illegal but never references the law that states that. I can’t find anything that says that but in my searches I found ….Gambling-Law-US.com…a site that covers all gambling laws in the US. Click Mi and scroll down to the paragraph in red that covers 1999 SB 562 that made it unlawful to use the Internet to gamble and 2000 Public Act 185 which rescinded those provisions leaving no law that prohibits gambling on the Internet in Mi. This site is run by lawyers and covers just about every gambling law in the US, state-by-state.
    In my opinion growing the betting pools at Pinnacle is the only way for them to survive and no one seems to get it. GLD, Jackson and Saginaw closed and that simulcast money from those areas is gone.
    Maybe horse people have tunnel vision. They by their occupation have to be at the track everyday and don’t understand why everyone can’t. A person who might live next to Northville Downs but works in Pontiac has no way to bet Pinnacle other than by computer or phone. Same if that same person became confined to bed.
    Is it that hard to enable Michiganders to wager on Michigan tracks via the Internet. Has anyone put forth the effort or is everyone following the slots dream.
    Wake up people.

  6. mibredclaimer

    for those interested in further research, I believe this is the article Ragman is addressing:


    Well, at least Dillon said it could end up on the February ballot. I suppose that’s better than simply closing the door on the possibility.

    I’m not going to say definitively that language banning ADW is or isn’t there because I haven’t done enough research on the topic to confirm that. However, I would have to figure someone who stands to profit from such a revelation would have found the inroad by now. I’ll definitely be checking out that site.

    Regardless, I do agree with you that we’ve lost a lot of key simulcast markets in the last few years. If it weren’t for Mount Pleasant Meadows, horse racing wagering would be all but restricted to the southeast portion of the state, and that’s a problem.

    If building a new racetrack isn’t practical and ADW (apparently) isn’t possible, I wonder what kind of effort it would take to tweak the language of the Horse Racing Act of 1995 to allow OTBs? Plunk one in Grand Rapids and/or Muskegon, maybe one up north in Traverse City or Mackinac City? A lot of money flows through those tourist towns up north. Couldn’t hurt the pools (and the state’s pocketbooks) any to open up some small parlors around the state.

  7. Andrew

    I think statewide off-track betting is a good idea. When GLD closed, I’m sure an OTB would have soaked up some of that handle. If it isn’t practical to build OTBs, why not let sports bars offer simulcasting?

    It looks like ADW in MI is a gray area. I’m not sure if it is clearly authorized or prohibited. If it was clearly prohibited, wouldn’t it seem like YouBet, TwinSpires, XpressBet, etc. wouldn’t allow MI accounts?

    If I remember correctly, the Breeders’ Cup will offer wagering on the BC races at lottery locations in CA this year. That’ll be interesting, and I still think it could be one of the better options for racing in our state.

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