Tag Archives: Michigan Gaming Control Board

Michigan Notebook: April 15, 2011

– Mum remains the word regarding the status of Michigan’s flat racing schedule for 2011, as the Michigan Gaming Control Board continues to mull over the fate of Pinnacle Race Course’s provisional racing license. The track has been closed for business since the end of last year’s meet.

An emergency meeting was scheduled between the Gaming Control Board and the Michigan Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association for April 14, but the HBPA website reports that the meeting had been cancelled.

From the Michigan HBPA website…

MGCB MEETING CANCELLED!!!!  for Thur. 12/14… No reason given, but will be scheduled for another time. It is a shame what’s going on with respect to horse racing. How does one run their business under these circumstances? Horsemen and women deserve better after all the years of being a productive industry for the state. It is becoming more difficult to argue with comments, that this industry is being systematically dismantled. Would this happen with an industry having 12,000 jobs in one place, rather than scattered around the state in almost every county? One location has only couple of legislators, the horse racing has many more, where are they?

– Michigan HBPA

– After a months-long period of inactivity, the bill to include a “representative of the equine industry” on the Michigan Gaming Control Board has again seen the light of day in the state’s House of Representatives. On April 12, the bill was referred to a second reading before the entire House after receiving approval from the House Committee on Agriculture. Follow the activity of HB 4151 as it makes its way through Lansing here.

– A piece of Michigan fair racing history is currently up for sale on eBay. A pair of racing programs from the 1924 Alpena County Fair is being offered on the auction website with a pair of Alpena Sports Hall of Fame programs. It is not specified whether the programs for the northeast Lower Peninsula fair feature flat or harness racing. As of the time this was first posted, five days remain to place a bid on the programs.

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Making the most of 2010: A look back on the year

The days leading up to New Year’s Eve offer a time for reflection on the year gone by.

For most, doing so may conjure up a roller coaster of memories, recollections, emotions and perhaps scars. Some will find they have made the most of the year, while others might discover that they have done very little with the last 365 days.

After doing some searching of my own, I have no problem staking my claim in the former group.

I often carry massive stacks of photo albums and other mementos in my vehicle because I always assume people do not believe me when I tell them the stories of my adventures. To save time and space, I have compiled some of the highlights of my 2010 into a handy bulleted list of links to posts of those stories.

Even after putting it into an itemized list, it boggles my mind that I experienced all of this in a lifetime, much less in one year. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I am a lucky son of a gun.

Let’s have a look at some of the things that have gone down since this time last year.

In the year 2010 I…

Said goodbye to the man who got me into this whole mess in the first place.
Watched the Michigan Gaming Control Board slash the state’s race dates.
Checked two tracks off my wish list.
Watched the Michigan Gaming Control Board slash the state’s race dates again.
Was told to get out of Michigan by Chris McCarron at Keeneland Race Course.
Followed a colt with Michigan ties through the Keeneland Two-Year-Olds in Training Sale.
Gave out 20-1 winner Exhi in my ThoroFan Handicapper’s Corner preview of the Coolmore Lexington Stakes.
Drove off the beaten path to chase the Fortune 6 wager at Beulah Park…And was promptly dumped out by the second leg.
Wrote some haikus for Claire Novak’s NTRA blog.
Lost a Kentucky Derby pin collecting contest against Dr. Sale Guru Emily.
Got pelted by a flying mint julep on Kentucky Oaks day.
Roamed the backstretch to gather quotes after the Kentucky Derby.
Went to Mount Pleasant Meadows a lot.
Hosted racetrack bucket-lister Tom Miscannon during his visit to Michigan.
Suited up in the box seats at Arlington Park.
Broke down a Pick 4 while waiting in line for a cage fight, then did a phone interview about my selections during an intermission for Claire Novak’s Youbet On-Track podcast.
Watched the next generation of Michigan-breds go through the sale ring.
Ate, bet and drove my way through Hoosier Park, Ellis Park, Riverside Downs, The Red Mile and River Downs, which earned the attention of Jennie Rees’ blog.
Severely underestimated the popularity of racing in Montana at Yellowstone Downs.
Played blackjack and the Quarter Horses at Prairie Meadows.
Live blogged the Indiana Derby on-site at Hoosier Park.
Partied with Bo Derek, Toby Keith. Encountered Kentucky’s governor. Visited champion mare Zenyatta in her stall.
Witnessed one of the greatest races in the history of the sport – The Breeders’ Cup Classic – Even if the outcome wasn’t what we had all hoped.
Got to pet Zenyatta, cover breaking news in the Churchill Downs press box.

I don’t always drink beer, but when I do, I prefer Dos Equis…Stay thirsty, my friends.

Okay, perhaps that last statement is not entirely accurate, but it seemed like the right thing to say at the time.

Later today, my travels will take me to Turfway Park. Once there, I will have been to every still-active track I have ever visited within the 2010 calendar year…If that makes any sense. Turfway was the last track I visited in 2009 as well, so it is fitting to bring everything full circle.

This year has been, without a doubt, the most memorable ride of my life. I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who shared in my adventures over the last 12 months at the races, in the press box, in meetings, at parties, on the road, on this site and all points in between. You are the ones who make all these stories worth telling, be it as a reader or an active participant.

Now let’s try to carry some of this good mojo into 2011, shall we?

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Michigan Gaming Control Board approves 2011 racing dates

The Michigan Gaming Control Board recently approved the 2011 racing schedules for Michigan’s five pari-mutuel racetracks.

The schedules are significantly larger than those run in 2010, but as it has been proven in previous years, these dates are far from written in stone and are subject to change at a moment’s notice. Any modifications in the flat racing schedules will be reported as they become official.

The Michigan HBPA website reports the dates for Pinnacle Race Course…

The Executive Director [Richard Kalm] has determined and concluded that the applicant complies with the standards and the requirements for granting a race meeting license and simulcast permit under the Act and Administrative Rules.” The order indicated that the licensee is subject terms and conditions.

84 race days approved: Begins May 27, 2011 through October 29,2011.

– 3 days a week Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays from May 27 through June 25
– 4 days a week Tuesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays June 28 through October 29

From the Mount Pleasant Meadows Facebook page

Mount Pleasant Meadows has been granted a total of 23 Mixed Breed race dates, from Saturday, May 14, 2011 through Sunday, August 21, 2011;

– One day per week, Saturdays, from Saturday, May 14, 2011 through Saturday, June 4, 2011;
– Two days per week, Saturdays and Sundays, from Saturday, June 11, 2011 through Sunday, August, 21, 2011;
– No racing on August 7, August 13 and August 14, 2011.”

The Michigan Harness Horsemen’s Association reports the schedules for the state’s three Standardbred racetracks…

Hazel Park (50 dates)
Friday May 6, 2011 through Saturday August 27, 2011
(Mondays, Fridays and Saturdays)

Sports Creek (33 dates)
Saturday January 1, 2011 through Sunday February 6, 2011
(Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays) 17 dates

Friday November 25, 2011 through Saturday December 31, 2011
(Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays) 16 dates

Northville Downs (24 dates)
Friday February 11, 2011 through Saturday April 30, 2011
(Fridays and Saturdays)

Northville Racing Corporation (24 dates)
Friday September 2, 2011 through Saturday November 19, 2011
(Fridays and Saturdays)

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Pinnacle Race Course suspends simulcast operations

Effective immediately, Pinnacle Race Course will cease simulcast operations until 2011, a track press release announced Tuesday.

The release cited Michigan’s difficult economic conditions, the Michigan Gaming Control Board’s drastic reduction of race dates, made up with funds from the state’s horsemen’s groups, and the board’s rescinding of funding from the state’s simulcast tax as reasons for the closure.

The track will remain open to cash out tickets Nov. 3-5 from noon to 6 p.m. and Nov. 8-12 from noon to 2 p.m..

A specific date was not given for the track’s re-opening next year. The MGCB recently approved an 84-day live meet at Pinnacle for 2011.

Pinnacle’s hiatus will also have an effect on the payment of outstanding purse money expected to be covered by incoming simulcast funds.

From the Michigan HBPA website

The loss of simulcast purse revenue will have an impact on issuing the balance of purses earned to the horsemen and women. Purses will be paid, but it may take a little longer.

Closing down simulcasting for the winter is a tactic that has been employed by other tracks in the midst of economic difficulties. Last year, Ellis Park in Henderson, Ky. suspended simulcast operations from Nov. 8, 2009 to April 1, 2010 to cut costs.

To view the track’s full press release, click here.

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Horsemen’s groups pay Gaming Control Board to keep Pinnacle open

The Michigan Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association website reports that the additional funds demanded by the Michigan Gaming Control Board to continue regulation at Pinnacle Race Course have been paid.

The Gaming Control Board requested $57,000 by noon on Friday, or else it would not regulate the weekend’s races, effectively shutting the track down. The money was provided by the state’s HBPA and the Michigan Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association.

It was not stated whether the full amount was paid or if a deal was reached to pay in installments over the remainder of the meet.

In April, Michigan’s horsemen’s groups paid the Gaming Control Board over $170,000 from its overnight purse pool after the regulatory body announced it would only regulate two days of racing at Pinnacle without additional funding.

The per diem cost of regulation has steadily risen over the last year and a half. In 2009, the Gaming Control Board required $4,300 per day to operate. When it was announced in March that the board would only regulate two days without additional support, that figure rose to $5,923. The most recent figure to come from the Gaming Control Board stated it would actually require $7,000 per race day to regulate Thoroughbred racing.

In protest to Gaming Control Board’s latest invoice, the HBPA filed an emergency motion with the Wayne County Court to stop the regulatory body from halting the races. The motion was denied, but a hearing was scheduled for Sept. 21.

For a Detroit Free Press story outlining the situation, click here.

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House GOP includes horse racing in Ag Task Force report

Crain’s Detroit Business reports a Michigan House of Representatives Republican task force has laid out a plan to improve the state’s agriculture industry which includes reforms to horse racing.

The task force, chaired by Fowlerville Rep. Cindy Denby, submitted the report following a series of town hall-style meetings and tours with members of the agriculture community last summer.

Among the topics discussed, the task force reviews how the state’s racing industry reached the shaky ground on which it stands today and revealed its strategy to reverse the trend.

The report examines the racing industry’s transfer to the Michigan Gaming Control Board, the subsequent slashing of race dates and how funding to the state’s Agriculture Equine Industry Development Fund has fallen through decreased income and more outside hands taking from the proverbial cookie jar.

To combat the financial shortfalls, the task force notes the recommendation by those in the racing industry to implement “instant gaming”, which has been approved in Nebraska, among other states. One would assume the report is referring to “instant racing” which has been successful in Arkansas (Nebraska just shot down instant racing, actually), but at least they are open to the idea.

Instant racing, which allows bettors to play stripped-down versions of previously run races, is viewed by the task force as “a solution that would not be expanding gambling, yet would provide an additional source of funding for the equine industry.”

The report also notes the lack of public knowledge regarding the racing industry and its situation, and calls for an increase in efforts to educate the population about the importance of horse racing in Michigan.

The section continues with a review of the Ag Equine Fund and its declining numbers. Noted in the report are the transfers of monies to the state’s general fund, testing for bovine tuberculosis and the end of the casino wagering tax on Detroit’s three non-tribal casinos.

At the end of the report’s horse racing segment, the task force offers the following points of action…

SHORT AND LONG TERM SOLUTIONS NEEDED TO SUSTAIN THE INDUSTRY:

– Develop cooperation between the Michigan Gaming Control Board (MGCB) and racing owners to help promote Michigan horse racing.

– Amend the make-up of the MGCB by requiring inclusion of horse industry representatives on the board.

– Require transparency of the MGCB and legislative oversight of the costs associated with horse racing breed by breed.

– Educate the public on the importance of horse racing to the state’s economy.

– Restrict appropriations from the equine fund to horse racing uses.

To view the full report, click here. The section highlighting the horse racing industry begins on page 15.

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Pinnacle Race Course sets opening date

From the Michigan HBPA website

MGCB RESPONDS: The Michigan Gaming and Control Board indicated today that “they have no objection to our agreement with Pinnacle.” With today’s action of the MGCB the 2010 season is scheduled to begin Saturday, June 5, 2010. Live days will be Saturday and Sunday.

Even though the race lacks any major drawing points for the fair-weather fan, opening on Belmont Stakes day ought to provide a nice additional bump to Pinnacle’s handle for the first day of the meet.

According to the HBPA website, Pinnacle is scheduled to conduct 44 days of live racing this year. Assuming the schedule stays the way it is drawn up (never a sure thing in Michigan), this equates to 22 weekends of racing through the end of October.

An interesting point to consider is that the schedule, as it stands right now, will require the MGCB to employ two sets of stewards to regulate both Pinnacle and Mount Pleasant Meadows, which will also run on Sundays through August. Last year, in a cost-cutting measure, the former Office of Racing Commissioner scheduled the two flat-racing tracks in a way that allowed one group of stewards to cover both venues. Then again, if the tracks are essentially paying their own ways this year, perhaps a set of stewards comes with the package.

So this gives us two opening weekends in a row; Mount Pleasant this Sunday and Pinnacle next Saturday. After a long, tumultuous winter and spring, it will be good to see the horses back out on the track.

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Michigan horsemen’s groups to buy race dates

Questions and searches keep coming in pertaining to the number of race dates that will be run at Michigan’s racetracks following the Gaming Control Board’s decision to drastically slash the days it would regulate into the single digits. While little has been been put in stone as of right now, here are the latest versions of the projected schedules based on published reports and interviews.

Horsemen’s groups at Pinnacle Race Course and Mount Pleasant Meadows have announced their intentions to purchase additional days of regulation from the state. Actions at both tracks require approval from the state government.

UPDATE: See? I told you things were subject to change. From the Michigan HBPA website

PINNACLE/HBPA: Both have reached a tentative agreement to enable the 2010 season to get underway….backside to open May 15 and track for training Monday 17th…meet will consist of 44 race days thru Oct. 31, 2010. This agreement has been presented to the MGCB for their approval. Live racing to begin June 26th thru Oct. 31, 2010

More information will be made available when the agreement is approved and final.

In an email conversation with Mount Pleasant Meadows mutuel manager Chris Christensen, it was learned that Mount Pleasant Meadows plans to open May 23 for an 11-day meet. Live racing will be held Sundays through Aug. 12.

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Michigan Gaming Control Board: Eight days left

From the Michigan HBPA website

LIVE HORSE RACING DESTROYED: The Michigan Gaming and Control Board (MGCB) advised the Michigan horse racing industry that the additional 20% will only permit regulation of EIGHT (8) live race days for the remainder of the fiscal year ending September 30, 2010. The simple explanation was that the budget only allowed funding for 104 live race dates and 96 have been run including 11 at Pinnacle last October 2009. The current message does not even come close to that issued to the industry by MGCB in early March. MGCB has indicated that Pinnacle will only be regulated for 3 days during the balance of the fiscal year.

Attempts continue to bring some sanity to this issue, unfortunately, the industry has not had any significant support from the MGCB to determine how daily regulation increased from $4,300 per day to $5,923 in 2010. They gave us a bill and refuse to itemize it. At this point, any restored days will need to come from our diminishing purse pool. The current decision has taken away 62 race days or 95.4%. The cost to restore all 62 days @ $5,923 is $367,226.00 that will devastate our purse pool. The HBPA board is scheduled to meet Wed and continue to address the issue.

…Whoa.

Nothing else has come out regarding this announcement, but if there is a shred of truth to it, something seems very illegal about this whole situation. The constant shell game of race dates to be regulated and the cost to make up the ones that have been dropped makes the powers that be appear as genuine as an 1850s sharecropper.

Keep an eye out for updates.

UPDATE: The actions of the Gaming Control Board and the rest of the Michigan state government could set a frightening precedent for jurisdictions in other states. Regular commenter on this site Pacingguy further elaborates on the issue on his blog, View From The Racetrack Grandstand. Definitely a recommended read.

The Daily Racing Form has also put up a story about Pinnacle’s potential three-day meet, which can be read here.

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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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