Racing group to request petition for casino licenses

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.

UPDATE: Here is an article in the Detroit News further explaining the proposed petition. A tip of the hat to Longshotsblues for sniffing out the story before I did.

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.



Filed under Politics

11 responses to “Racing group to request petition for casino licenses

  1. ragman

    What forces have been at work to kill the industry?
    Small uncompetitive fields. Little signal distribution creating most probably the smallest betting pools known to man. Stack everything in favor of the Mi-Bred breeders so they can keep producing horses from the same inferior gene pool year after year.
    I’ve seen the argument that horsemen should get more because they put on the show. I think right now in Michigan the horsemen are vastly over compensated.
    Ten casinos? One in Mt. Pleasant? The Vets better start locking up their drug inventory.

  2. Longshot

    Well with the limited number of Barns put up, it certainly isn’t the TB Horsemen fault of small fields. Construction was halted when the countries Banks financial collapse happened, creating some backing out of Pinnacle. Then furthering the disaster the announcement of the Governor cutting State funding to Horse Racing.
    Their were trainers begging for stalls at Pinnacle this year. Without the additional Barns being built. Many Stall applications had to be denied. Guaranteed if 1,500 stalls had been available, 1,500 stalls would of been filled. So your assessment is quite unfair.

  3. mibredclaimer

    I agree with you that a full-blown casino at Mount Pleasant Meadows probably wouldn’t work. Unless they can offer something in the casino itself the Soaring Eagle can’t, the tribe has a 10-year head start in terms of name recognition and customer base. Heck, with all the cuts the Eagle has been making, it’s clear the town can barely support the one casino it’s got.

    That’s why if they do get the license, I think less might be more. Instead of trying to go for the big-time Vegas feel, perhaps the track should try playing to its strengths and go for a “sports/simulcast bar with slots” feel – Something for people who want to do more than mindlessly plunk down coins and hit “spin again.”

    I know it’s a long way off, but it’s something to consider.

    You’re on the backstretch a whole heck of a lot more than I am, so you’d know the stalls situation as well as anyone. It’s a shame so much money got pulled all at the same time, because I definitely agree the track could use some more barns (among other backstretch additions).

  4. ragman

    Try reading these.….Illinois:…..and Can Racinoes save Michigan……Illinois Board approves internet betting.

    The people at Hazel Park aren’t rocket scientists..exp. Build a building to house slots before they are even okayed. They want a petition to add basically 8 casinos. That will only bring opposition from every existing casino plus all church groups. Who is going to fund the campaign. Magna’s deep-pockets are gone and those old men sitting on the terrace at pinnacle might(?) be god for a couple of hundred. So that leaves Mr. Campbell and Hazel to come up with several $million which the casinos which probably match 3 for 1.

    ADW wagering is achievable and would give racing in Michigan a chance.

  5. Longshot

    You have no argument from me Ragman about Hazel Park being anything let alone rocket scientists. Nor Northville downs or Mt. Pleasant. Personally I thought it should of been the TB’s that came up with the language for the petitions. Neither NVD or HP have the facilities to even have slots. HP could build onto the property. But where Northville would add it is beyond me. But nothing you ever state about Horse Racing here is on the up side, which makes me believe your into negativity about any kind of horse racing period. So why are you here? To degrade whatever is said on the subject of Horse Racing in Mi.

    Stick to the Casino’s bud, it’s where your heart is at. Your constant negativity about Horse Racing is way too obvious, and got old long ago.

    Yes I thought the number of tracks they put within the language was much. But now it is what it is. What I would like to know is where was our Thoroughbred people while Hazel Park’s VP was at work on the petition drive. Got to put some blame here. It seems much talking takes place, but not much action. Which angers me.

    But we don’t need the millions of dollars it took the Casino’s to get the signatures. We can and will get the signatures. The petition drive can be set up on the Net as well as in person. You underestimate the will. And you hate Horse Racing. So keep firing away at anything that’s being put forth by the Industry. Like I said, anybody who has read your constant negativity about Mi. Horse tracks, knows you sign on with the purpose of knocking us. Your words don’t have much value after the first couple of comments of knocking. It’s what is expected of you and it’s why your so easily dismissed.

    And try reading W. Virginia without an article. Purses before and after spoke loud volumes about how slots helped not only the track but the State as well. By Millions and Millions. Also not Rocket Science. And as far as the Churches are concerned, they didn’t stop Casino’s from being built. The Tracks are already gambling facilities. Doesn’t take much of an argument to point out what’s already there, where it would be betting on a horse or pressing a button on a slot.

  6. Longshot

    And as of 11:55 pm. The Detroit News Poll.

    Yay or hay?
    Would you vote for a constitutional amendment allowing casinos at horse racing tracks?

    Yes 67.46%
    No 32.54%
    Thank you for voting on this CyberSurvey!

    Click here to comment on this topic

  7. ragman

    I’ve never been to a casino in Detroit or Windsor. Not even sure where they are.
    Hazel Park has already built a brand new building for slots that sits empty right across from their decaying barn area. They should have spent the money to upgrade the barn area.
    Small fields suck to horseplayers. I’ll accept your explanation about stall shortages and the economy.
    Small pools suck. When Thistle Downs(no slots) can have more money wagered on a single race than Pinnacle does for an ENTIRE card then somebody at Pinnacle isn’t doing their job in getting their signal out. This is criticism used with the hope that somebody will realize that you need gamblers betting on the races to succeed.
    And when I say that trying to get 8 casinos passed is a mistake it doesn’t mean I’m against slots helping the industry. I just know that this will unite ALL the existing casinos and no cost will be to much to try and beat this. One casino could have brought in enough money for purses for the entire industry and there may be less opposition.
    And I would wager that I wrote more newspapers, politicians, and put more literature in mail boxes for the last proposal and Magna locating in Romulus than you.
    You may have noticed that I have little regard for the MiHBPA. That came about in 2007 when they urged their membership to contact their people in Congress asking them to approve more agricultural visas for “jobs Americans don’t want.” Right in lockstep with the AHC.
    Maybe having Hazel Park lead the campaign may be the best choice. They did participate successfully in the Florida election that got them slots at their dog track.

  8. Longshot

    Thistle Downs? Did I read your response correct? LOL

    Thistledown Racetrack sold to Harrah’s for $89.5 million.

    Harrah’s Operating Company, which owns 38 casinos and two thoroughbred race tracks, is the new owner of Thistledown Racetrack.

    The U.S. Bankruptcy Court of Delaware approved Harrah’s $89.5 million bid for the North Randall thoroughbred racing facility. It ended 40 rounds of bidding on Monday that began with a so-called stalking-horse bid of $22.3 million by Penn National, bidding as Cleveland Gaming Ventures LLC, and included bids from a subsidiary of Pinnacle Entertainment.

    Harrah’s will pay $42 million in cash when it closes the deal, and another $47.5 million in contingency payments.

    Thistledown is one of two horse racing tracks among the 11 owned by the bankrupt Magna Entertainment Corporation that have now been sold. The court on Tuesday also approved the sale of Remington Park in Oklahoma to Global Gaming Solutions RP LLC, a subsidiary of the tribal Chickasaw Nation, for $80.25 million. Magna bought Remington Park and Thistledown in 1999, paying $9.35 million for each track.

    “We haven’t talked to anyone from Harrah’s yet, so there isn’t much we can say about the purchase,” said Thistledown General Manager Brent Reitz. “Right now, we’re just tying up loose ends.”

    Executive Director Tom Fries Jr. of the Ohio State Racing Commission says there shouldn’t be a problem with approving the sale. He believes it can be done over the next 30 days.

    “Harrah’s already owns two race tracks, Harrah’s Louisiana Downs and Harrah’s Chester Racetrack near Philadelphia, and is licensed in those states,” said Fries. “A lot of what we need to do has already been done, such as background checks and fingerprinting. We won’t have to re-invent the wheel here.

    “I’m delighted that Harrah’s has that kind of confidence in buying Thistledown, which is a really neat venue,” said Fries. “I’m sure the horsemen are excited about Thistledown’s new owner, and what it will mean for horse racing in Ohio.”

    A thorn in the side of Harrah’s management team will Ohio court battles over allowing 2,500 video lottery terminals at each of Ohio’s seven racetracks. The new gambling that was to debut in May is forecast to generate $933 million over two years for the Ohio general fund, but the number of lawsuits challenging the legislature-approved gambling is now up to four.

    In order to take advantage of the video lottery terminals, or slots, Ohio’s tracks were required to post the first $13 million payment on Tuesday toward a slots licensing fee of $65 million. Ohio Lottery Commission officials did not return a call concerning Thistledown, its new owner and any delay granted to Thistledown in making the payment.

    A statement by Harrah’s after the hearing said that Harrah’s officials “are exited to be entering Ohio and look forward to developing a first-class facility in Cleveland which will create significant employment opportunities in the region.”

    The bid by Cleveland Gaming Ventures included breakup fees and expense reimbursements that could reach $500,000, which was disallowed by Judge Mary Walrath. Magna, its creditors committee and Penn National argued the fees were valid, according to Associated Press, and also set the stage for a successful auction.

    Still to be determined by the court is the disposition of Magna’s other race tracks, which include Santa Anita, Gulfstream Park, and Pimlico, Baltimore’s home of the Triple Crown jewel, the Preakness Stakes. The court did schedule a hearing on bidding procedures for the sale of Lone State Park. Global Gaming, the casino and racing track operation owned by Chickasaw Nation, has made a stalking-horse bid of $27 million. Qualified bids must be submitted Oct. 5.


    So you think Harrah’s bought Thistle with the intention of not gaining slots?

    Surely you jest.

    7 Ohio Tracks Meet Deadline for Slots; 5 Fail to Make License Payments
    By Associated Press Staff Writer

    COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) – Ohio’s seven horse racing tracks have met an application deadline for video slot machines, but only two have submitted $13 million initial payments for gambling licenses.

    The Ohio Lottery Commission says the other five tracks face late fees of $100,000 per day.

    Raceway Park in Toledo and Northfield Park in northeast Ohio got the payments in on time on Tuesday.

    Lottery officials say the remaining tracks still intend to come up with their first installments toward the $65 million licenses, though legal challenges have made lining up investors difficult.

    Three separate lawsuits have been filed against Gov. Ted Strickland’s plan to allow racetrack slots to help beef up the state budget.

    The lottery intends to have slots operating at tracks by May.

    Now when Michigan can back up their Horse Tracks the way that Ohio has, because their Governor actually FOUGHT HIMSELF for these Tracks to get Slots. And Pinnacle could get further backing like a Harrah’s. We’ll see what Pinnacle can do.

    Until then research your subject matter’s.

  9. mibredclaimer


    I think what Ragman is getting across is a track that is in a comparable amount of peril to Pinnacle is managing to pull in much more handle because it’s broadcasting at more locations. Slots or no, Thistledown’s signal is on the Keeneland simulcast program and Pinnacle’s isn’t. Even as one of the lowest-class tracks they offer, that’s a lot of money coming in. This has been the case at many of the tracks I have visited.

    However, I do agree with you that this situation would probably be a whole lot easer if the Governor was in our corner, or at least understood the benefits alternative wagering can bring about. Gov. Strickland really wasn’t pro-slots, but he saw the revenue it could produce for the state and did the right thing.


    I got to thinking, and perhaps the people who wrote up the proposal added the three other licenses so they wouldn’t have to fight the casinos/morals groups on their own.

    If there is an interest to purchase those licenses, I would bet those groups would throw their money behind this proposal and they’d have fairly deep pockets. If that was their intended strategy, it’s not a terrible idea. It might not level the playing field, but it would get things closer.

  10. ragman

    That article is a month old.
    Harrahs doesn’t have to(won’t) go through with the deal if Thistle doesn’t get slots.
    The Ohio Supreme Court gave the anti-slots backers the go ahead to collect signatures to put a halt to slots at the tracks.
    In November Ohio voters will vote yes or no on 4 casinos(non track) to be located in Cincy, Columbus(?), Toledo and Cleveland. If this passes River Downs, Beulah, Raceway Park and Thistle may be out of business. If it doesn’t pass it is a good indication that Ohio racetracks will never get slots. So naturally the horse people in Ohio are anti-gambling in the November election.

  11. Longshot

    I know what Ragman was pointing out. And he knows Pinnacle isn’t even a established track as of yet. Having newly been built in 08, with not even close to being finished off. My point is if Pinnacle had all of it’s intending barns up, in fact all barn area built up, grandstand, clubhouse, etc…. And was at Capacity like DRC once was. Their would be no way that Thistle could compete with us. And our signal would be picked up by all.

    This constant negativity by this individual is nothing more than pounding the point that Horse Tracks in Mi. are nothing. It is tiresome. Yes, when DRC went down. Thoroughbred Racing hasn’t been the same here. In fact after Hatman & Tyner bought DRC, DRC was never the same. Ladbroke didn’t even attempt to bring and focus or attention to TB racing. Hell they never cared at all about LIVE racing period. They were strictly bookmakers in England. they didn’t want TRACKS. They wanted Betting parlors.

    So lets cut the bull here with Ragman. Pinnacle has not even got close to being launched from the ground yet and most know it. Nobody knows it better than the Mi. Horsemen. But the constant trashing of anything good trying to be gotten here in this state. I’m fed up. Ragman isn’t a horse racing fan, he’s a pessimist. And his constant aim is MICHIGAN RACING. That tells me he’s not from Mi., or he’s cheering for the Casino’s.

    Personally I will never address anything he puts on this screen again. Because like I stated, it never anything but negativity. And it’s done with a reason. At 52, I got street smart long ago growing up on the streets of the east side of Detroit. I see all too clear what ragman is all about. And it is about trashing anything and everything about Horse Racing in the State of Mi.

    In reality he should run for the Mi. House, he’d fit in quite well.

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