In the wake of Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s executive order folding the Office of Racing Commissioner into the Michigan Gaming Control Board, one group is wasting little time appealing to its new regulators.
Hazel Park-based group Racing to Save Michigan will present a petition initiative at Wednesday’s Michigan Board of State Canvassers meeting to let the Gaming Control Board to issue casino licenses to the state’s racetracks.
The petition requests to “amend the State Constitution to allow the Michigan Gaming Control and Revenue Board to issue state casino licenses to up to eight new casinos in Michigan, five of which would be located at horse racetracks that conducted race meetings with pari-mutuel wagering in 2009.”
Michigan’s five pari-mutuel racetracks are Pinnacle Race Course (New Boston), Hazel Park Raceway (Hazel Park), Northville Downs (Northville), Sports Creek Raceway (Swartz Creek) and Mount Pleasant Meadows (Mount Pleasant). The locations of the remaining three licenses are not specified.
It is uncertain at this time if the petition is intended to conform with the guidelines of Proposal 04-1, which requires racetracks and other non-protected bodies to pass local and statewide votes in order to implement casino-style gaming. A petition is often the first step toward a ballot proposal. However, the language in the meeting notice suggests a counter-amendment to the state constitution to allow the Gaming Control Board to issue the casino licenses. If the petition is approved, its status with regards to Proposal 1 will likely be made very clear.
According to the Michigan Secretary of State website, the Board of State Canvassers’ duties include canvassing and certifying statewide elections, elections for legislative districts that cross county lines and all judicial office except Judge of the Probate Court. The board also conducts recounts for state-level offices, canvasses nominating petitions filed with the Secretary of State and state-level ballot proposal petitions, assigns ballot designations and adopts ballot language for statewide ballot proposals.
For additional information on the Gaming Control Board and to read Michigan HBPA Executive Director Gary Tinkle’s reaction to the industry’s move under the board’s umbrella, a Daily Racing Form story on the matter can be found here.
According to the story, the remaining three casino licenses after the five racetracks will be auctioned off by the state for an estimated revenue of $100 million. The article does not specify if that figure is per license or a grand total. If the petition is approved, the group must collect 380,126 signatures in 180 days.
Also on the Detroit News website is a poll question asking “Would you vote for a constitutional amendment allowing casinos at horse racing tracks?”
At the time of this update, the poll stands as follows:
Yes – 51.79%
No – 48.21%
If you still crave more information about the expansion of gaming in Michigan, here is an NPR news story with quotes from both sides of the issue. Because it is is on a radio website, I would assume this made it on the air, but I do not see a link to the audio. If anyone spots it, feel free to post the link in the comments.