Dan Adkins, a Michigan racetrack official who has for the last 18 months been working on a petition that would allow eight casinos in the state, is moving forward with the measure—with or without the support of local horsemen.
“There’s no time to change the language (of the petition),” Adkins said Feb. 11 in response to comments made by Gary Tinkle, executive director of the Michigan Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association who had wanted the proposal to include more provisions for horse racing. Adkins is president of Hazel Park, a Detroit-area harness track and simulcast facility.
“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.”
In response to Tinkle’s concerns that there is no protection for live racing in the petition, Adkins pointed out that currently in Michigan law, racetracks are required to continue running live racing every year.
“I’m not sure why they have the concerns that they do, but probably the thing that bothers me the most is this is the only vehicle out there," Adkins said. "For them to say they don’t support it is suicidal. Effectively, without this, these tracks are going to close.”
Adkins said in his proposal, the percentage of funding the horsemen receive would be up to the state.
“What we’re proposing is a 30% tax rate, and 75% of that would go straight to the state, and a larger chunk would go into each county,” he said. “The existing 23 (Michigan) tribal casinos really don’t pay anything to the state; last year it was about $11 million total. That’s ridiculous from 23 casinos. The three commercial casinos pay an effective tax rate of 21% to 22%. Only 8.1% of that goes to the state.
“I talked to the horsemen and I understand their concerns, but there’s no time to back up now. We have to have signatures collected by July. I’ve offered to reach an agreement with (the horsemen), and I’ll continue with that. But everything in this right now is my time and my money, so I’m not going to stop. I need to save Hazel Park.
"If they want to stand and make fools of themselves and say they don’t support it, that’s up to them.”