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.”
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.”
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.