Tag Archives: Michigan HBPA

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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Campbell “indicates” sale of land parcel to Native American tribe

From the Michigan HBPA website

JERRY CAMPBELL SPEAKS TO HBPA BOARD: During agreement discussions, Jerry (Campbell, owner of Pinnacle Race Course) indicated to the members attending the meeting that he is involved in serious effort to offer Instant Racing (pari-mutuel wagering on old races).  In addition, he indicated that a portion of Pinnacle property south of the current structure has been sold to a Native American tribe that may build a “smoke shop” and potentially a casino. According to Jerry both endeavors are to offer millions to our purse pool. It is a an effort to save an industry whose “model is broken and must be addressed or the industry can not survive.”

No other information was immediately available, but if these “indications” are true, this could be a potential game changer. Instead of trying to go toe-to-toe with the tribal casinos, it appears Campbell has cut a deal with one of them. For those unfamiliar with the setup of Pinnacle Race Course, the track itself is built well off the road, leaving plenty of room for expansion on the property.

The tribe purchasing the land was not named in the HBPA’s release. However, it is worth noting that the Upper Peninsula-based Hannahville Indian Community applied last October to build a casino near the Detroit Metropolitan Airport, about five miles away from Pinnacle. Clearly, this is only speculation on the writer’s part, but an agreement of this caliber would have clear benefits for both parties. Pinnacle would get its casino and the Hannahville tribe would have the extra bargaining chips of supporting the racing industry and building on a site that already hosts gambling. Or, the deal could have been made with a completely different tribe and this idea was a complete whiff. One would assume we will find out in the near future.

Another question that immediately comes to mind is how the potential casino money would be distributed. The HBPA’s release suggests the purse pool would be a benefactor, but horsemen’s programs including breeder’s awards are not addressed. Again, additional details are sure to come out as time goes on.

A move like this could explain Campbell’s relative silence in regards to the two casino petitions currently battling for a place on November’s ballot. If the deal with the Native American tribe goes as planned, the track would have no need for racino legislation. If it falls through, Campbell has a safety net in the ballot proposal.

Instant racing has been suggested in Michigan for several years, but its legality in the face of Proposal 04-1 has generated mixed results from attorneys and lawmakers. The poster child for instant racing is the state of Arkansas, whose Oaklawn Park was ready to offer Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra and undefeated champion Zenyatta $5 million to square off before the former’s connections backed out.

For those with access to the print edition of Thoroughbred Times, senior writer Frank Angst wrote a feature in the April 17, 2010 issue that did a great job of explaining how instant racing works and how it has changed the culture at Oaklawn. Those seeking more information on the issue would be wise to seek out the story.

It will be interesting to see how these stories develop in the coming months.

In related news, the HBPA website also reports…

PINNACLE/HBPA: Both have reached an 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

An agreement has been executed by both parties.

However, an informal meeting was held Friday May 7 to discuss the possibility of changing the current agreement. The Michigan HBPA board will address the suggested changes ASAP.

Suggested changes include the possibility of moving opening day back to June 4 and terms of financial assistance to Pinnacle.

If any changes are made to Pinnacle’s schedule, they’ll be here as soon as they become public.

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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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Gaming Control Board slashes Michigan racing dates

The Michigan HBPA website reports…

MICHIGAN GAMING AND CONTROL BOARD MEETS WITH INDUSTRY: On Wednesday, March 3, 2010 the MGCB indicated the number of race days that will be reduced for the balance of the 2009-10 fiscal year due to budget cuts. Attendees were told that the approved dates of 261 for racetracks will be reduced to 112 or 57%.

Pinnacle Race Course days reduced for the 2009-10 fiscal year ending September 30, 2010 are 34(52%) leaving 31 race days from June 4 to August 13…Friday, Saturday and Monday. At this point, no racing between Aug 14 to Sept. 30, 2010.

Efforts are underway to challenge the cut and amount stated as cost per to regulate a live race day by ORC staff. More details will be made available as soon as possible.

UPDATE: The Michigan Gaming Control Board has come out with a slideshow outlining the changes in race dates for each track and the fiscal reasons for the announcement. For those of you too busy to peruse the presentation (though I suggest you do it anyway), it shows downward trend after downward trend in race dates, handle and governmental “give-a-damn” followed by an execution-style bullet to the back of the head in the form of massive cuts in race dates.

Here is the breakdown of the cutbacks by track…

Pinnacle Race Course
Before (Dates initially allotted): 84 days –  June 4 to September 30
After: 31 days – June 4 to August 13
Change: -53 days

Mount Pleasant Meadows
Before: 23 days – May 15 to September 25
After: 11 days – June 6 to August 29
Change: -12 days

Hazel Park Raceway
Before: 61 days – April 30 to August 6
After: 29 days – April 30 to September 18
Change: -32 days

Northville Downs
Before: 18 days – February 12 to April 24
After: 11 days – March 5 to March 27 (some dates have already been run)
Change: -7 days

Sports Creek Raceway

Sports Creek has already conducted all of its race dates for the 2010 fiscal year and will not be affected by the Gaming Control Board’s announcement.

Clearly, this is bad news, but Michigan has been in this spot before. That said, if this goes through as it was drawn up, it is hard to imagine this year being anything less than devastating to the state’s racing industry. Check back for updates as more information becomes known.

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Michigan HBPA displays petition language

The Michigan Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association website has posted selected language from the petition to allow casinos at the state’s five racetracks and three additional locations. The petition was written and promoted by the group Racing to Save Michigan, led by Hazel Park Raceway CEO Dan Adkins.

The section of the petition displayed on the site has “caused serious concern” among Michigan’s horsemen’s groups due to its lack of guaranteed provisions for live racing programs.

To view the petition language on the Michigan HBPA website, click here.

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Adkins, horsemen’s groups trade blows in media

Arguably the most controversial issue facing Michigan’s racing industry is the petition penned by Hazel Park Raceway CEO Dan Adkins seeking to place casinos at the state’s five pari-mutuel racetracks and three additional sites.

The petition has been met with opposition from the state’s horsemen’s groups from both the harness and Thoroughbred worlds, who claim the petition lacks provisions for purse structure in live racing.

Here is the latest from the Michigan Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association website

HBPA/MHHA MEET: HBPA group and the MHHA met Thurs. Feb. 11 to discuss the current status and an alternative racino and casino petition that will provide provisions for live racing, simulcasting, purse distribution, as well as, CHO protection. Both organizations understand the importance of time, after some research it was determined that the Board of Canvassers may review  a petition request between 14 and 17 days. One important segment of a petition is, of course, purse revenue. The current petition only provides for purse revenue from the state tax. As we all know, we have not had much support from the state for our industry, substantiating our concerns.

The two sides have each stated their case to The Blood-Horse.

Michigan HBPA Executive Director Gary Tinkle was interviewed for a Feb. 9 story by Esther Marr. Though Tinkle said he and the horsemen’s groups want to support the petition, he told Marr that in its current form, the petition would “place the industry’s future in jeopardy”…

“We feel very strongly that (this petition) is using the tracks as a conduit but with no provisions (for racing),” Tinkle said. “Adkins said he’s willing to go ahead with the (bill) alone. It’s hard for us to understand why he would do that. The takeouts (proposed) by the horsemen are completely reasonable.

“I would hate for this legislation not to pass, but if it does pass in its current form, it would be a ticking time bomb for the (Thoroughbred) industry. And the enabling legislation—that’s the real elephant in the room.”

– Blood-Horse

Adkins gave his rebuttal on Feb. 11. In the story, also written by Marr, he called the lack of support “suicidal” and noted how little the state’s 23 existing casinos pay to the state compared the projected figures of the proposed racinos…

“I met with the Thoroughbred and harness horsemen over a year and a half ago and told them I was putting this together, and nobody showed any interest,” said Adkins, who noted that even Pinnacle Race Course owner/developer Jerry Campbell had failed to give a real response to the proposal.

“So I put it together the best I could, and once I got it approved, everybody showed up,” Adkins said. “Gary Tinkle says there’s nothing in (the petition) for the horsemen, and that’s not true. The initiative that I put together requires the state to take a share of its revenue and put it back into the programs related to horse breeding and racing.”

– Blood-Horse

The blogosphere has also chimed in regarding the situation. Reactions have ranged from concerned to very concerned.

Clearly, this is a very complicated subject. Whenever money and politics are involved, it is foolish to assume anything will go smoothly. Hopefully the two sides can reach some semblance of common ground before things get out of hand, be that a failure to collect enough signatures or a divided proposal on the ballot. No matter what form of the petition is put up to the plate, it will be faced with crippling resistance by interests with truckloads of money. If the industry approaches this issue on a divided front, the result won’t be pretty.

The fact that the two sides are slinging mud at each other through the media is an embarrassment. It does not reflect well on Michigan’s racing industry for such infighting to be aired out publicly, and it will not help public support if some version of the petition makes it to November’s ballot. Regardless of who is right or wrong, a middle ground must be reached between Adkins and the horsemen, because we have one hell of a fight coming up this fall.

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Michigan Notebook: February 2, 2010

– A story in Monday’s Oakland Press features Hazel Park CEO Dan Adkins and the petition he and his group, Racing to Save Michigan, are spearheading to implement casino gaming into the state’s five racetracks. The story highlights the additions Hazel Park made in 2004 after State Congress approved slots at the track. However, the structure was never finished after Gov. Jennifer Granholm failed to sign the bill into law. The restrictions set in place by Proposal 1 of 2004 further sealed the building’s fate.

Progress with the petition has been hampered by a lack of support from the Michigan Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association and the Michigan Harness Horsemen’s Association. The HBPA website cites the petition’s lack of provisions for live racing, simulcasting, purse revenue and horsemen’s organizations for its refusal to endorse the plan in its current form. Negotiations over the language of the petition have been ongoing between Adkins’ group and the horsemen’s organizations, but according to the HBPA’s site nothing has been finalized.

– A six horse crash Saturday night at Sports Creek Raceway made the local news. WJRT-ABC 12 reports the crash occurred when the lead horse in a race at the Swartz Creek harness track fell to the ground. Horses and drivers then began to pile up as they tried to avoid the fallen leader.

Two drivers were taken to the hospital following the accident. According to the MHHA website, driver Larry Lake suffered a shoulder injury that will require surgery, but he was released Sunday morning. Keith Crawford was placed in intensive care, but is expected to be released in the near future, if he is not out already.  Amazingly, it was reported none of the horses were seriously injured, and only one was “slightly hurt”.

To view the news feature, including footage of the crash (no fatalities, but still not for the faint of heart), click here.

– For those of you curious about the demolition progress of defunct Muskegon racetrack Great Lakes Downs (or, like me, just need closure), a citizen of the Internet took several pictures of the scene while taking in the decay of her former community. The photos, interspersed with other shots of the area can be found here.

– Consider this your one-week warning to vote for the Michigan-Bred Claimer 2009 Photo of the Year before the poll closes up. Photo #9, “Caged Animal”, enjoyed a burst in popularity and holds a comfortable lead. If you feel another photo is more deserving of the title, this is your last chance to do something about it. If that photo is your favorite, make sure it closes strong. Either way, you’ve got a week to decide.

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ORC approves Pinnacle’s 2010 schedule

From the Michigan HBPA website…

2010 RACE DATES ISSUED: Commissioner Lockwood approved the following dates for  Pinnacle Race Course’s 2010 season at 84 days.

June 4 – June 27 Friday, Saturday and Sunday

June 29- October 31 Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Tuesday

The 84 race dates approved by the Office of Racing Commissioner is an increase of 12 days from the 72 live dates conducted by the New Boston track in 2009. Pinnacle was originally scheduled for 83 dates in 2009, but cuts to the ORC by Gov. Jennifer Granholm prior to the start of the meet forced the track to cut dates and use the purse money to fund the regulatory organization.

For more information on the approved dates, as well as quotes from trainer Bob Gorham and HBPA Executive Director Gary Tinkle, a Blood Horse story can be found here.

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Michigan Notebook: October 23, 2009

Things have been, and will continue to be, pretty hectic due to midterms, so here are a few links to interesting stories to keep you occupied until things calm down…

– The Michigan Harness Horsemen’s Association announced Thursday live and simulcast racing will cease on Nov. 5. The organization stated on its website the move is in response to an executive order by Gov. Jennifer Granholm moving the racing industry under the umbrella of the Gaming Control Board and the Governor’s veto of racing-related line items in the State Budget. For more information, click here.

UPDATE: Since this was first posted, the Michigan HBPA has also put up the announcement on its website. It adds that the stoppage is due to total layoffs in the Office of Racing Commissioner stemming from the Governor’s line item veto of funding to the ORC. This means the halt in racing activities will, in fact, reach across all five of Michigan’s tracks.

UPDATE TWO: Here is a story further explaining this situation from WJRT ABC 12 News. The piece focuses on local harness track Sports Creek Raceway.

– When the news came out about the petition get the casino issue on the ballot, one of my first thoughts was whether the recently-closed Jackson Harness Raceway would get in on the action. This blog post from Jackson Citizen Patriot columnist Brad Flory answers that question. Short answer: They’ll have to buy their way in.

– Many in Michigan’s racing industry believe the Gaming Control Board is a poor fit as a governing body. This story in Crains Detroit Business (who seems to cover Michigan’s racing industry better than any other publication in the state) outlines that discontent, further elaborates on the terms of the transition to the Gaming Board, and describes the industry’s plans to protest the decision.

– Pinnacle Race Course announcer Matt Hook named his divisional award winners after the conclusion of the 2009 meet. Hook’s selections coincided with the six winners of the Sire Stakes races, so I will not dedicate a post to rehashing the information. To find out who else received honors, a Daily Racing Form story can be found here.

– This story comes from Illinois, but I’m counting it because it needs to be considered in Michigan. Here is a very informative Q&A piece about Advance Deposit Wagering. It does a better job of explaining the complicated ADW subject in plain English than any source that immediately comes to mind, including myself. It seems ADW suffered from the same “gray area” status it currently does in Michigan.

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