Accomplishing the collective goals of Michigan’s racing industry will be easier if its factions work together, stated the common rhetoric of speakers during an industry meeting last Friday at Pinnacle Race Course.
Representatives from Michigan’s racetracks and horsemen’s groups, as well as the Office of Racing Commissioner and other members of state government, met under the track’s patio to make connections, discuss the direction of racing in the state, and introduce newly appointed Acting Racing Commissioner, Patricia Lockwood.
After recent announcements by Gov. Jennifer Granholm rekindled the possibility of alternative wagering in Michigan’s racetracks to help close Michigan’s gaping budget deficit, there was much to discuss.
The event, largely organized by breeder Ron Fitzgerald, was hosted by Pinnacle owner Jerry Campbell.
Campbell encouraged those in attendance to contact their state representatives and inform them of the benefits Michigan’s racing industry can have for the state’s economy.
“We want to work hard with our leaders in Lansing to see if we can get something done and help solve the budget crisis,” Campbell said.
Michigan Harness Horsemen’s Association President Brett Boyd said he called Campbell, among many others, shortly after hearing about Granholm’s statements.
“My message to Jerry was I think we need to strike while the anvil’s hot,” Boyd said. “The opportunity is absolutely at our fingertips.”
Throughout the meeting, speakers discussed the immediate goal of implementing instant racing terminals with the long term goal of full-fledged racinos. Campbell said these additions could potentially quadruple purses at the state’s five racetracks.
However, an old foe stands in the way.
“Unfortunately, Proposal 1 is one of the most magnificently drafted pieces of legislation ever,” Boyd said. “It creates a lot of hurdles and obstacles for our businesses.”
Despite this challenge, Boyd was optimistic the state’s budget situation could be the factor that tips the scales in the racing industry’s favor.
“Never in history, and I’ve been around a while, have I seen the appetite of our state reps be so willing to help,” he said. “And now they have a problem we can help them solve.
Other speakers included the following:
– Patti Dickinson, Michigan Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association President
– Gary Tinkle, Michigan Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association Executive Director
– Larry Julian, Former state representative and Michigan Equine Partnership Legislative Liason
– Mike Huckleberry, State Representative (D-Greenville)
– Tony Cunningham, Great Lakes Quarter Horse Association President
– Cindy Denby, State Representative (R-Fowlerville)
– Mike Sadler, Chief of Staff of Rep. Mike Simpson (D-Jackson)
– Jack Krasula, Pinnacle Race Course Director
Acting Commissioner Lockwood delivered the final speech of the meeting, in which she said her office was ready to work for the benefit of the industry. Lockwood also expressed an openness to communicate and cooperate with the state’s horsemen, which she proved immediately by staying well after the meeting to visit with those in attendance.
“I know you’ve gone through a string of racing commissioners and you always feel like you’re starting again,” L0ckwood told the audience. “I can tell you that’s not the case here.
“I’m very up to speed on what the issues are, the challenges are,” she continued. “We’re going to be working on your behalf.”
Readers interested in finding out how to help support Michigan’s racing industry are encouraged to contact their horsemen’s groups for further information. Behind the jump is a list of organizations that would be happy to assist horsemen and race fans alike in supporting the industry during this critical time. If any groups have been omitted, feel free to mention them in comments.
Edmore horseman featured in Daily News story
The front page of Monday’s Greenville Daily News is two-thirds occupied by a story about the dire situation of the Thoroughbred racing and breeding industries in Michigan.
This comes on a news day when the U.S. House of Representatives passed a landmark health care reform bill, local towns battled over Google Fiber and the Michigan State University men’s basketball team won an NCAA Tournament game on a last-second shot.
Needless to say, this is a pretty big deal.
The story, written by Daily News staff writer Jessica Dudenhofer, focuses on Edmore Thoroughbred breeder Rick McCune, who has been hit hard by the decline of racing in the state.
Dudenhofer examines the negative repercussions of Proposal 04-1 and the effects the industry’s downturn has had on the state’s five racetracks. The story continues by looking at the number of jobs affected by the racing industry, both on and off the racetrack, and the puzzling lack of interest Gov. Jennifer Granholm seems to have in preserving them. The article wraps up with a discussion about the massive state cuts in funding to horse racing programs. Line items appropriated by the Ag Equine Development fund are generated by the racing industry itself through a tax on simulcast handle.
Others interviewed for the story include Michigan Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association president Patti Dickinson, spokesperson for Gov. Granholm, Liz Boyd, and State Representative Mike Huckleberry.
To read the story, click here.
Also, be sure to check out the video that accompanies the piece. I make a brief cameo near the end holding one of McCune’s stallions, Research.
As is the case most times I come across a feature on a Michigan horseperson, I will take this opportunity to stress the importance of outreach to the media and others who can be of assistance.
This story happened because the reporter overheard McCune discussing his situation at a legislative luncheon at Montcalm Community College earlier this month. She contacted McCune shortly after the meeting and set up the first of two interviews at his farm.
The end result was a front-page, screaming-headline explanation of the state of Michigan’s racing industry that can’t be missed by anyone reading the paper, or even walking by it. The story’s online presence will only help spread its message to an even bigger audience. All it cost McCune was some time at the kitchen table to talk shop and an extra trip to the barn to show off his horses.
It is an important time to ensure the public is informed about horse racing. There could be up to three casino proposals on November’s ballot, and it is critical that the public knows the benefits a healthy racing industry could have for the state if the right initiative is passed. The passage of Proposal 1 in 2004 is a prime example of how public misinformation can swing an election. One of the easiest, and cheapest, ways to reach lots of people and at least have the information out there is the mass media.
As always, I would be happy to assist interested parties in the process of contacting, interviewing or otherwise dealing with local media. Some time ago, I posted some contact information to various local news outlets. The link to that post can be found here. The list may have a few changes since it was first posted, but this a good place to start.
Filed under Commentary, Pinnacle Race Course, Politics
Tagged as Greenville Daily News, Jennifer Granholm, Jessica Dudenhofer, Media Contact, Mike Huckleberry, Research