Casino petition threatens Michigan racing’s cause

The Michigan Board of State Canvassers approved a request last Friday to petition for a ballot proposal allowing seven new casinos across the state.

The proposal, backed by the group “Michigan Is Yours”, would allow casinos to be built in Detroit, near Detroit Metropolitan Airport (within a stone’s throw of Pinnacle Race Course), Lansing, Flint, Benton Harbor and Muskegon. The bulk of the tax money generated by the casinos would go to state education programs, including the Michigan Promise Scholarship.

Benton Harbor Mayor Wilce Cooke and former Detroit Gaming Commission head Frank Stella spearhead the “Michigan Is Yours” campaign.

A breakdown of the proposal and its key figures can be found in this MLive article.

It does not take much effort to see that this is a very dangerous petition for Michigan’s racing industry. The reason for this is twofold.

First, the proposal would saturate the casino market in the state to the point where further expansion would become nearly impossible. If passed, it would become more difficult than ever to gain public support for five more gaming establishments at Michigan’s racetracks.

Second, the “Michigan is Yours” casinos offer no money to the state’s agriculture or racing programs. While the “Racing To Save Michigan” proposal does not guarantee anything to those programs, it is at least in the language. It is easier to get back money that has been yanked away by the government than money that just isn’t there.

Simply put, this proposal would spell the end of the racing industry in Michigan as we know it. New casinos in the backyards of three of the five Michigan racetracks (not including the Soaring Eagle in Mt. Pleasant) without any kind of tax provisions for racing programs will suck the tracks dry of the gambling dollar until there is nothing left but vacant land. This proposal must be resisted at all costs.

Also on Friday’s agenda, the “Racing To Save Michigan” racino proposal, led by Hazel Park CEO Dan Adkins, was re-approved with some modified language. From what I have heard, the tweaks to the proposal did not add any of the guaranteed live racing provisions sought after by the horsemen’s groups.

In related news, the Mt. Pleasant Morning Sun reports Dennis Kequom, the newly elected chief of the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe, spoke out against Adkins’ proposal in his first State of the Tribe address. In particular, Kequom singled out his competition up the road from the Soaring Eagle Casino.

Kequom told the membership that an effort is in the works to allow for “five race track racinos and three additional casino operations.”

“Mt. Pleasant Meadows is one of those (horse race) tracks that are included in the proposal,” said Kequom. “If enough signatures are collected, we will see this proposal on the ballot.

“Rest assured that the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe is committed to stopping this effort and combatting the misinformation that is disseminated on Tribal gaming.”

– Mt. Pleasant Morning Sun

To further illustrate the distribution of tax revenues from each plan, I have put together a couple of pie charts comparing how much the state gets out of the deals. The difference is quite significant…

Distribution of casino monies (/100) under the "Michigan Is Yours" proposal. Information gathered from http://www.mlive.com.

Distribution of casino monies (/100) under the "Racing To Save Michigan" proposal. Information gathered from http://www.mihbpa.com. *Money to the state is placed in a fund for "public education, economic development, job creation and job training, tax reduction, programs relating to horse breeding and racing, preventing and treating compulsive gambling, and grants for Michigan high school graduates to attend a public college, university or vocational education program in Michigan." EDIT: This chart replaces the previous one, which wrongly interpreted the distribution figures. The Michigan-Bred Claimer regrets the error.

So, here is the situation. Right now, we have two petitions circulating involving new casinos in Michigan. One is probably bad for racing. The other is definitely bad. From the way things look and sound, either proposal ought to kill live racing in the state just as dead, if passed. One just may do it a little quicker than the other.

All that said, it may not be time to throw in the towel just yet.

Recent news from the Michigan HBPA website suggests a solution might be on the way…

HBPA AND MHHA AGREE: Both the HBPA and MHHA have approved alternative petition language that provides for and protects members of both associations. Plans are underway to request a date from the Board of Canvassers to review and approve our alternative petition.

– Michigan HBPA

No information has been made available as to the details of the proposal, but it would be safe to assume there would be some kind of metaphorical lock box established to keep some money safe for the state’s horsemen. Keep an eye out for updates regarding all three plans.

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7 Comments

Filed under Commentary, Politics

7 responses to “Casino petition threatens Michigan racing’s cause

  1. Longshot

    Our Petition ( That is the Horsemen’s ) is going to be advertised as such: The Real Petition to Save Horse Racing & Tracks in the State of Michigan.

    It will leave no doubt to people who go to the Race Tracks for HORSE RACES. On what Petition to sign.

    What is now a Threat at this precise moment to RACING is the Michigan Gaming Control Board. They hold our Fate and our Racing dates for 2010.

    If anybody out there cares about Horse Racing, they had better get on the wires immediately to their Legislators. And I mean ASAP if not soon enough.

    The MGCB is about to shut this whole damn Industry down without batting an eyelash.
    And all of this can be blamed by a very DUMB Governor. No inclination what so ever what Horse Racing has brought into the State by way of REVENUE. I thought Engler was bad. He just didn’t give a shit about us. In Granholm’s case it’s just plain uneducated stupidity.

    State is drowning in debt. But she was adamantly blind by dissolving the ORC. And putting in jeopardy an Industry that always brought money to the State. How stupid can a individual be?

    You need Revenue, but lets stab the lone entity who brings in the most. Not just stab us, but make sure we are stabbed numerous times until completely dead.

    Putting us under GAMING was Idiocy. Indian Casino’s don’t even have to give remotely anything back. But the money alone off of Simulcasting?

    Well if the Dates are killed, Simulcasting by law CANNOT take place. Thus KISS THE REVENUE HORSE RACING BRINGS IN…. GOODBYE!

    Talking about looking at a Gift Horse in the Mouth.

    But I blame the HBPA for letting two groups proceed them in not only submitting their petitions first to the State Board of Canvassers, but now having us be the THIRD petition on the block. If we had been first as we should of been. Having that crystal clear language could of started gaining signatures long ago. We haven’t even got our date with the Board as of yet. They waited and waited. For what? Some Idiot named Dan Adkins?

    They were warned long ago not to trust anybody connected to Hazel Park’s Owners. We waited to stand in line to have our heads chopped off. That is about the size of it. It is March and still don’t have a Petition reviewed and Approved. So the Idiot they were warned about went ahead and precipitated us with a petition that in essence is a KILL Horse Racing petition.

    And our wait gained us another group out of nowhere to submit a petition using Casino’s for another Agenda. To further confuse the citizens of Mi. to what the hell any of them are going to mean. When we get this petition finally finalized with reviews and approvals. We are going to have to advertise the petition to the Max, as to what it is and what it concerns. BUT……

    Right now we have a more dire issue. The MGCB. Are they going to be allowed to let the guillotine blade fall as of right now? Our fate because of this stupid Governor is now in their hands. But our Legislators can step in and have our backs. But not if nobody contacts them to voice their very loud opinions on the matter of Horse Racing.

    I am not worried about this latest petition. They have to gain the signatures like the rest. We just have to make sure our Horse Racing Industry and Agriculture supporters know which petition to sign.

    And with the Michigan is Yours Petition. When people see that the casino keeps 81%, giving out in essence very little to their so called causes for the petition to begin with. Doubt they’ll have support enough by those causes they are supposedly helping. They are going to realize they were being used. Their causes won’t receive much, as the Casino keeps the majority of the money. Thus that petition may see a backlash, by a lie.

    Contact your Legislators people, AS IN NOW TO KEEP NOT ONLY ONE BUT ALL OUR RACING DATES.

    And Again, where the hell is Jerry Campbell’s voice on all this? And one more SILENT PART, Northville Downs. I’d say since that track was shut down more than any other in Mi. history for horrid track conditions. And them never wanting to spend one thin dime for racing surface problems. I think they’d love nothing else more to also just have a Casino like H.P WITHOUT the Horse Racing part.

    Sometimes SILENCE speaks Blasting Volumes in itself. But in Campbell’s case? Maybe Vegetating by being overwhelmed. Or an Ace in the Hole none know about. It’s going to be a very Interesting few months.

  2. Joe,

    Excellent post, really puts things in perspective. The pie charts say it all.

  3. Derek

    Hello Everybody!

    Again…what a mess and a disaster to our struggling Industry. Thanks for the in depth reporting….I surely will be on the phone with my elected officials to try and quell the anti-racing movement. It is soooooo clear to me that Lansing perceives racing as the enemy. Lets continue to fight gang…..we have to save racing!

  4. ragman

    I believe your pie chart for Racing To Save Michigan is very wrong. I think it gives 30% to the state which then divides that for racing, municipalities, etc. The track/casino will get 70% which is to much in an economy that we have.

  5. mibredclaimer

    Longshot,
    It is indeed a frustrating situation, made even more frustrating by the recent news of the race date cuts. It will be interesting (and I don’t necessarily say that in a good way) to see how this all works out.

    Andrew,
    Thanks a bunch! I just wish the pie charts were accurate. They’ve since been fixed.

    Derek,
    That’s what we need to do – get a hold of our legislators. I’ve seen a lot of skepticism against doing it because, quite frankly, many of them won’t listen, but I see it like playing the lottery: You can’t win it if you’re not in it. As such, getting the attention of Lansing can not be accomplished unless we contact elected officials, even at the risk of being ignored.

    Ragman,
    I was just informed of my error by another source as well, and it has since been corrected. Not sure what I was thinking there. I need to fire my proofreader. Thanks for pointing that out and sorry for the error.

  6. The Gambler

    Hooray for this campaign. Why let the Indians have all the revenue and not pay taxes? Is it fair that they can post ads for jobs which state “preference given to native americans”? Or how about bidding on their business and a native american gets a 5% allowance? Time to even up the playing floor here. All men are created equal and they are taking advantage of this existing situation.

  7. old time race fan

    I have to shake my head and wonder, who in their right mind thinks that this Michigan is Yours proposal makes any sense at all. We already have more casinos in Michigan than anywhere else besides Nevada. Just what we need is a few more casinos in Flint, Benton Harbor, Muskegon, etc.
    As far as the other proposal, which potentially could help the thoroughbred and harness industries, the MIY proposal, even if it does not pass, has the potential to turn voters off, and they may just say enough is enough and vote NO across the board.
    Jeez, what a mess! Thank you, Governor.

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