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…
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.