Tag Archives: Racing to Save Michigan

Casino ballot petitions fail to collect signatures

The Detroit Free Press reports the two casino expansion proposals targeting this fall’s election have both failed in the petition stage.

Had the “Racing To Save Michigan” and “Michigan Is Yours” proposals both obtained the 380,196 signatures required to appear on the ballot, Michigan voters would have had the option to add up to a combined 15 new casinos to the state’s 23 already existing operations, with one more under construction. The deadline for signatures passed on July 5.

The “Racing To Save Michigan” plan, drawn up by Hazel Park Harness Raceway CEO Dan Adkins, suggested the addition of up to eight casinos in locations across the state. Five would have been located at the state’s pari-mutuel racetracks: Hazel Park, Pinnacle Race Course in New Boston, Mount Pleasant Meadows, Northville Downs and Sports Creek Raceway in Swartz Creek. The additional three licenses would have been auctioned off by the state government. This proposal was met with skepticism by many in Michigan’s horse racing industry due to its lack of guaranteed provisions for the state’s racing programs.

The “Michigan Is Yours” proposal called for seven new casinos in Benton Harbor, Detroit, Flint, Lansing, Muskegon, Romulus and the Detroit Metropolitan Airport. Had it passed, the proposal would have also legalized sports betting at the state’s casinos. The “Michigan Is Yours” campaign was co-chaired by Benton Harbor mayor Wilce Cook.

For a detailed breakdown of how the money generated by each proposal would have been distributed to the State of Michigan and other sources, click here.

Both proposals faced opposition from the group Protect MI Vote, which includes state congressmen and women, values-based groups, casino-owning Native American tribes and interests representing the three non-tribal casinos in Detroit.


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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.


Filed under Commentary, Politics

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.


Filed under Great Lakes Downs, Politics

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.


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.


Filed under Politics

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.


Filed under Politics