House passes bill to restore race dates

The Michigan House of Representatives passed a bill on Mar. 18 to restore some race dates taken away by the Michigan Gaming Control Board on March 3.

The bill, HB 5407, proposes to transfer $308,688 from the Purses and Supplements line item of the Ag Equine Development Fund to the Office of Racing Commissioner to help fund the regulatory body. According to the House Fiscal Agency’s analysis of the bill, an additional $36,458 would be kicked in by “private funds from the horse racing industry”.

The analysis projects this additional funding to the ORC would help restore 46 race dates that were taken away by the cuts. The total number of days reduced in the Mar. 12 announcement by the Gaming Control Board was 112.  It is not specified how the dates would be distributed between the four racetracks affected by the announcement.

Also included are a few interesting boilerplate items that suggest the State Legislature may be looking for some answers from horse racing’s new regulators. Among the items listed is a request for a status report from the MGCB regarding the transfer of the ORC into its jurisdiction. However, the highlight of the boilerplate items is the third item as seen below in the Fiscal Agency’s “Cliff Notes” version…

3. Cost of Conducting Race Dates
Requires the Michigan Gaming Control Board to use actual cost data in determining regulatory costs of conducting horse racing dates, and requires reporting.  Requires refund if costs charged to certified horsemen’s organizations is more than determined actual costs.

As many who follow Michigan’s racing industry know, the Michigan Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association has been investigating the reasons behind the jump in required funding for the ORC from last year. In 2009, the horsemen’s organizations paid $4,700 per additional race date to keep the ORC going at the tracks. This year, the fee has jumped $5,923 per race date.

The bill passed in the House by a vote of 106-2. It was referred to the Senate Committee on Appropriations on Tuesday. To track the bill, and all its changes, through Lansing, click here.

One of the two “No” votes came from Representative Justin Amash (R – Kentwood) from Michigan’s 72nd House District.

From Amash’s Facebook Page…

“Just voted no on HB 5407, which makes supplemental appropriations related to horse racing (we were told that money is just being “moved around”). Leadership pushed the bill onto the floor to resolve an alleged “emergency” with respect to racing dates. Legislators were given only minutes to read and analyze the bill. It passed 106-2.”

Thanks to Ragman for pointing that out.

Considering it was read and revised three times, I am surprised Mr. Amash was not made aware of the bill earlier. I will give Mr. Amash the benefit of the doubt, as he may not have enough knowledge about the racing industry to make an informed decision, which would be a shame for everyone involved. If that is the case, there are many fine people in this state, probably even in his own district, who would be happy to educate him.

Also, as someone who has eyes on a U.S. Senate seat in November, it is easy to posture oneself as someone who “takes a stand” to voters with a vote like this. However, given the circumstances Amash provides, if he truly did not have the time and background knowledge to make an intelligent decision on the issue, the ethical thing to do would have been to abstain instead of trying to make a statement, and toying with the fates of the state’s horsemen, with a “no” vote.

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10 Comments

Filed under Commentary, Politics

10 responses to “House passes bill to restore race dates

  1. a horse of a different color

    I hear the 46 days they are trying to restore would merely make up for the Northville Downs and Northville Racing Corp dates they had taken away.
    Nothing for Hazel Park, Pinnacle or Mt. Pleasant.

  2. mibredclaimer

    Interesting development. I wonder if they are going to handle each track on a case-by-case basis as their meets approach? Being as though Northville is running right now, that might make sense.

    However, upon further review, Northville didn’t have that many days originally approved by the ORC, even before the cuts, much less lost that many. Unless Northville plans on running a considerably larger meet than originally expected, it’s hard to imagine at least a few of the other tracks getting some of those days.

  3. a horse of a different color

    Northville Downs runs two meets:
    The first runs 32 Dates
    2/12/2010 – 4/24/2010

    The second is Northville Racing Corp:
    which is an additional 27 Dates (different track management though)
    9/23/2010 – 11/20/2010
    If you do the math NVD had 32 originally approved/11 awarded=-21
    Northville Racing had 27 previously approved/2 awarded =-25
    together that is your 46 day deficit.
    I could be very wrong but it makes sense.

  4. mibredclaimer

    Ah, I forgot about Northville Racing Corp.’s meet. That would explain it. Makes sense.

  5. ragman

    Justin Amash isn’t running for re-election he is trying to get elected to the US Congress representing the 3rd district. I believe Dick and Betsy DeVos support him. This is a guy who claims he votes “no” because he doesn’t have enough time to read the bills but he does have time to clutter the internet with campaign BS. I don’t live anywhere near the 3rd district but certainly they must have someone more qualified than him. An empty suit with a law degree.

    When are we going to start debating how to save Michigan racing without slots?

    • Justin Amash

      Thanks for taking an interest in my vote. State representatives often have bills sprung on them without prior notice. This was one of those cases. (I am not on the committee that deals with this issue.)

      My policy is that I will not support any bill that I did not have adequate time to read and analyze. Unfortunately, most legislators do not follow this policy. Consequently, while many of my colleagues have no problem giving uninformed support to this bill, they also have no problem giving uninformed support to many bills that you would not like.

      If anyone would like to discuss this further, please do not hesitate to contact my office at 517-373-0840 or justinamash@house.mi.gov. Thanks.

  6. mibredclaimer

    Ragman,
    Nice save. I’m really dropping the ball with my facts and figures today. You make a valid point with the internet comments, though I would imagine an intern or aide would handle it.

    I suppose we’ll start debating slots-free solutions when slots no longer become an option. Until then, I don’t see it happening.

    Rep. Amash,
    I suppose we will have to agree to disagree on this issue. I believe a vote can be a powerful thing, and an uninformed “no” vote is just as dangerous as an uninformed “yes”.

    That said, if you would like more information regarding the horse racing industry for future votes, I would be happy to tell you whatever you would like to know, or point you to someone who can.

  7. ragman

    I hope someone will take the time to try and explain to Rep J.A what this bill meant and what future bills may mean to the racing industry in this state. Tom McMillin is the rep from district 45 who also voted no. Maybe contact him also. There is no excuse to let them vote no because they are without info on these bills. If they detest gamblng and want to see the racing industry shut down then that’s another story.

  8. In case anyone missed this, the MGCB broke down how the reductions would affect each track (obviously this is outdated and will change, but doesn’t everything in MI racing):

    http://mhha-online.com/news/mgcbReduction%20of%20Race%20Dates%200303101.pdf

    11 days for MPM (page 15). Yikes. Now, the MIHBPA is saying there could be an additional race date reduction by 20% and an even higher cost per day.

  9. ragman

    I believe that racing officials used to be hired and paid by the tracks. The Racing Comm just signed off on them. With the right split in the tax this would be a much better way to go. Then tracks could run whatever number of dates they thought would be profitable.

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