Michigan Again Slashes Live Racing Dates

A Michigan agency has ordered racing dates cut by more than 50% through Sept. 30.

Struggling with state budget cuts, the Michigan Gaming Control Board has cut schedule horse racing dates by more than half, the state agency announced March 3.

Racing dates in Michigan were cut last year by the Michigan Office of Racing Commissioner, but most of them were restored after negotiations with the racing industry. It remains to be seen if that will occur again in 2010.

The MGCB, in a presentation, outlined the reduction of revenue for horse racing and the steps needed to bring racing schedules in line with the budget. The revisions go through Sept. 30, the end of the 2009-10 fiscal year, though more racing dates had been awarded beyond that date.

Pinnacle Race Course lost 34 days, meaning it will race 31 days from June 4-Aug. 13, with racing Fridays, Saturdays, and Mondays. The meet traditionally runs through early fall.

Dates at three harness tracks were similarly reduced. In all, the MGCD said there will be 112 racing dates through Sept. 30, down from the 261 approved dates.

In a statement, the Michigan Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association said: “Efforts are under way to challenge the cut and amount stated as the cost-per to regulate a live race day by ORC staff.”

A historical comparison provided by the MGCB shows how pari-mutuel handle and revenue have declined in Michigan.

In 2005, there were 548 live racing dates, total handle of $309.7 million, and revenue of $10 million. In 2009, there were 276 racing dates, $203.3 million in handle, and $6.85 million in revenue.

A day after the MGCB took its action, the harness racing industry in Michigan was hit with the news of a State Police investigation into alleged race-fixing at three harness tracks. Up to 30 people may be involved, according to published reports.