Tag Archives: Michigan Board of State Canvassers

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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Michigan racetrack casino license petition approved

The Associated Press reports a proposal by Hazel Park-based group Racing to Save Michigan was approved Wednesday to start petitioning for a November 2010 ballot proposal to expand gaming in the state’s racetracks.

The petition was approved unanimously by the Michigan Board of State Canvassers during Wednesday’s meeting. If successful, the proposal will grant five casino licenses to the state’s pari-mutuel racetracks and three more to be auctioned off by the state.

However, the issue will not be passed without a fight. Because this petition threatens to bypass Proposal 04-1, which requires racetracks to pass local and statewide ballots for a license, a spokesman for MotorCity Casino and several tribal casinos said the coalition that got the binding proposal passed in 2004 will likely be revived to challenge this new issue.

Now that the petition has been approved, the Detroit News reports Racing to Save Michigan has 180 days to collect 380,126 signatures in order to get the proposal on the ballot. According to the Associated Press, the group plans to begin circulating the petitions within the next six weeks.

As soon as information about where petitions can be signed is made available, it will be posted on this site.

UPDATE:

Here is some additional media regarding yesterday’s announcement…

WJRT ABC 12 News piece on racinos, focusing on Sports Creek Raceway.

Detroit News story about the proposal and its petition, views from both sides of the argument, and it’s ramifications for the coming months.

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Racing group to request petition for casino licenses

In the wake of Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s executive order folding the Office of Racing Commissioner into the Michigan Gaming Control Board, one group is wasting little time appealing to its new regulators.

Hazel Park-based group Racing to Save Michigan will present a petition initiative at Wednesday’s Michigan Board of State Canvassers meeting to let the Gaming Control Board to issue casino licenses to the state’s racetracks.

The petition requests to “amend the State Constitution 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.”

Michigan’s five pari-mutuel racetracks are Pinnacle Race Course (New Boston), Hazel Park Raceway (Hazel Park), Northville Downs (Northville), Sports Creek Raceway (Swartz Creek) and Mount Pleasant Meadows (Mount Pleasant). The locations of the remaining three licenses are not specified.

It is uncertain at this time if the petition is intended to conform with the guidelines of Proposal 04-1, which requires racetracks and other non-protected bodies to pass local and statewide votes in order to implement casino-style gaming. A petition is often the first step toward a ballot proposal. However, the language in the meeting notice suggests a counter-amendment to the state constitution to allow the Gaming Control Board to issue the casino licenses. If the petition is approved, its status with regards to Proposal 1 will likely be made very clear.

According to the Michigan Secretary of State website, the Board of State Canvassers’ duties include canvassing and certifying statewide elections, elections for legislative districts that cross county lines and all judicial office except Judge of the Probate Court. The board also conducts recounts for state-level offices, canvasses nominating petitions filed with the Secretary of State and state-level ballot proposal petitions, assigns ballot designations and adopts ballot language for statewide ballot proposals.

For additional information on the Gaming Control Board and to read Michigan HBPA Executive Director Gary Tinkle’s reaction to the industry’s move under the board’s umbrella, a Daily Racing Form story on the matter can be found here.

UPDATE: Here is an article in the Detroit News further explaining the proposed petition. A tip of the hat to Longshotsblues for sniffing out the story before I did.

According to the story, the remaining three casino licenses after the five racetracks will be auctioned off by the state for an estimated revenue of $100 million. The article does not specify if that figure is per license or a grand total. If the petition is approved, the group must collect 380,126 signatures in 180 days.

Also on the Detroit News website is a poll question asking “Would you vote for a constitutional amendment allowing casinos at horse racing tracks?

At the time of this update, the poll stands as follows:

Yes – 51.79%
No – 48.21%

If you still crave more information about the expansion of gaming in Michigan, here is an NPR news story with quotes from both sides of the issue. Because it is is on a radio website, I would assume this made it on the air, but I do not see a link to the audio. If anyone spots it, feel free to post the link in the comments.

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