Adkins, horsemen’s groups trade blows in media

Arguably the most controversial issue facing Michigan’s racing industry is the petition penned by Hazel Park Raceway CEO Dan Adkins seeking to place casinos at the state’s five pari-mutuel racetracks and three additional sites.

The petition has been met with opposition from the state’s horsemen’s groups from both the harness and Thoroughbred worlds, who claim the petition lacks provisions for purse structure in live racing.

Here is the latest from the Michigan Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association website

HBPA/MHHA MEET: HBPA group and the MHHA met Thurs. Feb. 11 to discuss the current status and an alternative racino and casino petition that will provide provisions for live racing, simulcasting, purse distribution, as well as, CHO protection. Both organizations understand the importance of time, after some research it was determined that the Board of Canvassers may review  a petition request between 14 and 17 days. One important segment of a petition is, of course, purse revenue. The current petition only provides for purse revenue from the state tax. As we all know, we have not had much support from the state for our industry, substantiating our concerns.

The two sides have each stated their case to The Blood-Horse.

Michigan HBPA Executive Director Gary Tinkle was interviewed for a Feb. 9 story by Esther Marr. Though Tinkle said he and the horsemen’s groups want to support the petition, he told Marr that in its current form, the petition would “place the industry’s future in jeopardy”…

“We feel very strongly that (this petition) is using the tracks as a conduit but with no provisions (for racing),” Tinkle said. “Adkins said he’s willing to go ahead with the (bill) alone. It’s hard for us to understand why he would do that. The takeouts (proposed) by the horsemen are completely reasonable.

“I would hate for this legislation not to pass, but if it does pass in its current form, it would be a ticking time bomb for the (Thoroughbred) industry. And the enabling legislation—that’s the real elephant in the room.”

– Blood-Horse

Adkins gave his rebuttal on Feb. 11. In the story, also written by Marr, he called the lack of support “suicidal” and noted how little the state’s 23 existing casinos pay to the state compared the projected figures of the proposed racinos…

“I met with the Thoroughbred and harness horsemen over a year and a half ago and told them I was putting this together, and nobody showed any interest,” said Adkins, who noted that even Pinnacle Race Course owner/developer Jerry Campbell had failed to give a real response to the proposal.

“So I put it together the best I could, and once I got it approved, everybody showed up,” Adkins said. “Gary Tinkle says there’s nothing in (the petition) for the horsemen, and that’s not true. The initiative that I put together requires the state to take a share of its revenue and put it back into the programs related to horse breeding and racing.”

– Blood-Horse

The blogosphere has also chimed in regarding the situation. Reactions have ranged from concerned to very concerned.

Clearly, this is a very complicated subject. Whenever money and politics are involved, it is foolish to assume anything will go smoothly. Hopefully the two sides can reach some semblance of common ground before things get out of hand, be that a failure to collect enough signatures or a divided proposal on the ballot. No matter what form of the petition is put up to the plate, it will be faced with crippling resistance by interests with truckloads of money. If the industry approaches this issue on a divided front, the result won’t be pretty.

The fact that the two sides are slinging mud at each other through the media is an embarrassment. It does not reflect well on Michigan’s racing industry for such infighting to be aired out publicly, and it will not help public support if some version of the petition makes it to November’s ballot. Regardless of who is right or wrong, a middle ground must be reached between Adkins and the horsemen, because we have one hell of a fight coming up this fall.

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7 Comments

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7 responses to “Adkins, horsemen’s groups trade blows in media

  1. Hey Joe,

    If the two sides can’t reach an agreement, it’s a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” scenario. The ups and downs continue…

  2. ragman

    Joe
    Over the past three weeks I’ve stopped at Hazel Park three times to make a couple of bets in the lobby. They had a woman asking people to sign the petition. I asked for a blank copy with the intent of mailing it to you and you could have made your own judgement on the wording. She didn’t think she was supposed to. So as time passes so do chances of getting it on the ballot. Better start figuring out ways to grow the sport because this thing isn’t going to fly.

  3. It’s stories like this that make me wonder why I bother, the two sides in this battle would rather let the industry die then come to some kind of compromise with each other, and again the fans will loose just like when DRC was shut down.

  4. mibredclaimer

    Andrew,
    You’ve got that right. Hopefully the ups and downs can level out and the two sides can work out an agreement.

    Ragman,
    I appreciate you trying to get a copy of that for me. I agree that their chances get worse and worse of getting anything done as time goes on, and if the only place they’re passing the petition is Hazel Park (I haven’t heard of any other locations, at least), then it will be all but impossible to get the required signatures.

    It’s hard to believe Adkins doesn’t realize that making at least a few concessions to the horsemen’s groups would get him more signatures than going it alone. Sometimes it’s better to get some of what you want than none of it.

    Bill,
    It does seem as though the two sides are not willing to concede at the moment, but if I’ve found one thing it’s that the racing industry has gotten really good at getting things done at the last minute.

    The situation is frustrating, but now is not the time to give up. Now is the time to work harder. If the two sides truly want expanded gaming, this is where they are going to have to show it. The clock is working against getting some kind of gaming issue on the ballot, and it will take a combined effort to get this done, nothing less.

  5. Derek

    Thanks Joe for the updates!!

    One would think we could get all the parties together and hammer out a deal. It’s a shame it has come to this. I’m hoping we can at least get some easier things done like Instant Racing or an ADW deal. While these would require a legislative action, it could be enticing enough revenue wise to get something done.

    Slot machines is a whole different animal which will require an effort from all sides to get something done. I know one thing….Michigan Racing HAS to get something done very soon to ensure it’s very survival.

    I remain hopeful that we have sunnier days ahead!
    Hope all enjoyed a Paczki today! Isn’t this a great name for a horse???

  6. Longshot

    http://www.michigan.gov/documents/sos/10-14-09_Minutes_297431_7.pdf

    BUREAU OF ELECTIONS
    RICHARD H. AUSTIN BUILDING h 1ST FLOOR h 430 W. ALLEGAN h LANSING, MICHIGAN 48918
    http://www.Mi c h igan.gov/ s os h ( 517) 3 73-2540

    Meetingof the Board of State Canvassers
    October 14, 2009
    State Capitol, Room 426
    Lansing, Michigan
    Called to order: 2:07 p.m.

    Members present: Norman D. Shinkle – Chairperson

    James L. Waters
    Jeffrey Timmer
    Members absent: Erane C. Washington-Kendrick – Vice-Chairperson
    Agenda item: Consideration of meeting minutes for approval.

    Board action on agenda item: Motion to approve as submitted. Moved by Waters; supported by Timmer. Ayes: Shinkle, Waters, Timmer. Nays: None. Motion carried.

    Agenda item: Consideration of initiative petition form submitted for approval by Racing to Save Michigan, 1650 E. 10 Mile Road, Hazel Park, Michigan 48030.

    Board action on agenda item: Michael Hodge, attorney for Racing to Save Michigan, addressed the Board to explain that two versions of the initiative petition had been submitted for the Board’s consideration: a version that referenced an “altered or abrogated” section in the State Constitution and a version that did not carry such a reference. At the conclusion of Mr. Hodge’s statements a motion was entered to approve the form of the initiative petition submitted by Racing to Save Michigan that included the “altered or abrogated” language reference with the understanding that the Board’s approval does not extend to the substance of the proposal which appears on the petition; the substance of the summary of the proposal which appears on the signature side of the petition; or the manner in which the proposal language is affixed to the petition. Moved by Timmer; supported by Waters.

    Ayes: Shinkle, Waters, Timmer. Nays: None. Motion carried.

    http://www.michigan.gov/documents/sos/Bal_Prop_Status_2010_272754_7.pdf

    III. STATEWIDE PROPOSAL PETITIONS “APPROVED AS TO FORM” IN PREPARATION FOR CIRCULATION
    A. CASINO LICENSES: Initiative petition approved as to form October 14, 2009.

    Purpose: Proposed constitutional amendment 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.

    Contact: Racing to Save Michigan, 1650 E. 10 Mile Road, Hazel Park, Michigan 48030. Phone: (248) 398-1000.

    I Contacted Mi. Secretary of State Board of Canvassers and requested the petition’s language for clarity. Awaiting response. Anybody else here can do the same. In fact I encourage you to do so.

    http://www.michigan.gov/sos/0,1607,7-127-15049-25634–,00.html

  7. I understand why horsemen from both breeds feel they need VLTs, but quite honestly, VLTs are a time bomb even if horsemen get them. You saw what happened to the money the government in Michigan was willing to spend on racing when things got tough. Assuming slot revenue gets allocated to horse racing, how long do you think it will be before the state government passes a new law cutting the percentage or eventually removing the horse industry’s portion? Especially when no one continues to show up at the track and/or wager? Doesn’t anyone care that at racinos, some handles only contribute 5% of the purse account?

    This has been one pet peeve of mine regarding VLT revenue and racing. The racing industry considers VLT payments an entitlement, similar to a welfare payment. It would be one thing if horsemen and tracks use these funds to try to improve the sport; things like cutting the takeout, speeding up the card, making the on track experience more pleasurable, and yes, reduce racing dates.

    Cut down on the racing dates? Utter blasphamey, yet look at Chicago harness racing. Their purses are down to $1,800 for their $4,000 claimers; their purse account had over a two million dollar deficit. By not racing three weeks in January, the purse account deficit was reduced by $800,000. If they raced only six months in Chicago, their purses deficit would go away, and those same $4,000 claimers would probably be racing for a minimum of $5,000 with contributions from simulcast wagering occuring on other tracks during their dark periods. If other tracks cut their race dates, purses would go up further because those gambling dollars being wagered would not be diluted, but wagered on few tracks. Everyone wins. However, horsemen want things to be the same and race at one place as long as possible (especially with the trotters) and not recognize the changing landscape of the world. I realize thoroughbreds don’t traditionally have as long race meets as the trotters, but the same applies.

    Before the Internet, there was a true local market for racing. If you wanted to play the horses, you depended on your local tracks; there was a need for as many tracks racing as we have. Now, with the Internet, the local market is national, and to some extent global. There is no longer a wagering demand for fifteen thoroughbred and tweleve harness tracks to race in the United States on anyone day. Cut back racing dates and make other changes and racing can once again be profitable.

    Racing can survive on its own, if people are willing to accept the new reality and change accordingly to meet the market demand. No one likes change, no one wants people to lose jobs, but unfortunately it is what happens when an industry has matured, become a commodity, which is what racing has become. The tough decisions need to be made to survive, otherwise everyone will be looking for new jobs.

    I know this may seem like a rant, but it isn’t; it is frustration. While my preference is harness racing, I think horse racing in general is a wondeful sport which can survive if people truly try to save it. I wouldn’t have a problem with VLT revenue if it was used correctly to permit an orderly right-sizing of the sport as well provide racing the opportunity to reinvent itself in the new world while the VLT revenue was available (and sure, let current participants prosper at the same time). The problem is instead of treating racing like a sick relative who can be saved with some effort and financial commitment, it seems many (not all, some want racing to survive) within the industry rather get every dollar out of the relative before she/he dies.

    This is why I am ambivelant about VLTs.

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