MI Racing Officials Disagree on Casino Bill

Michigan horsemen have so far been unsuccessful in amending a casino petition.

After several meetings, two Michigan horsemen’s groups have remained unsuccessful in convincing Dan Adkins of Hazel Park to amend the language of a petition concerning the approval of eight new casinos in the state. As a result, the organizations are opposing the ballot proposal.

The Michigan Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association and Michigan Harness Horsemen's Association do not support the ballot proposal’s current form due to the fact it provides no protection for live racing, simulcasting, or purse structures at the state’s five major racetracks.

Adkins is vice president of Hazel Park, a Detroit-area harness track and simulcast facility. His petition provides for three free-standing casinos in addition to five racetrack casinos, and contains no provision to contribute to the horse industry’s purse structure.

“Yet, the petition is identified as ‘Racing to Save Michigan’ to include the current five racetracks,” Michigan HBPA executive director Gary Tinkle said. “Both the Michigan HBPA and MHHA do not support the three casinos getting a free ride, without being attached to a racino package. There is little chance they would be on the ballot.”

Adkins could not be reached immediately for comment.

Tinkle indicated both organizations had hoped to support the petition, but cannot agree to back it with the existing language.

“Time to secure signatures is flying, but it is also important that our industry receives the protection it deserves,” Tinkle said. “Without the protections, the current language places the industry's future in jeopardy.”

Adkins’ proposal would allow tracks to discontinue live racing, but still operate casinos, Tinkle said. It would also most likely include enabling legislation that would give officials the authority to implement or enforce the law.

“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.”

Click here to read a full report on when Adkins’ proposal was first introduced.