Pinnacle Race Course

Pinnacle Approved for 84 Dates in 2010

Horsemen are trying to get casino gaming at racetracks on the ballot for 2010.

Pinnacle Race Course in Michigan has been approved by the Office of the Racing Commissioner to race 84 days in 2010.

“We’re waiting for final budgetary confirmation (on the dates) from the ORC,” said Bob Gorham, a director of the Michigan Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association. Gorham said there is a possibility Pinnacle will have to reduce its dates as it did this year, when the meet was trimmed to 72 days.

If Pinnacle does race 84 days, it will hold its meet on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from June 4-27; and Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, and Tuesdays from June 29-Oct. 31.

“I’m cautiously optimistic,” Michigan HBPA executive director Gary Tinkle said. “We’re in the same situation as many states, as we’re not allowed to offer additional gaming. We’re struggling; hopefully we can get the casino package on a ballot next year. That’s our goal. Without that, there will be no more racing in Michigan.”

The ORC is scheduled to be abolished Jan. 17, 2010, and put under control of the Michigan Gaming Control Board, but Tinkle said the state Senate doesn't suppport that plan and is trying move the organization under the state Department of Agriculture. The matter has yet to be discussed in the House of Representatives.

In the recently adopted state budget, funding for the industry was cut 57% to about $1.4 million for breeding programs and ORC operations.

Gorham said a petition for casinos at racetracks that was spearheaded by Hazel Park, a Detroit-area harness track, and supported by Thoroughbred and Standardbred horsemen, is being circulated in an attempt to get the issue on the November 2010 ballot. The petition calls for at least eight casinos in Michigan, five of which would be at racetracks.

“There would be a much higher percentage of revenue that would go to the state than is currently given by the existing Native American casinos and downtown Detroit casinos,” Gorham said. “There’s a lot of reasons for the state of Michigan to vote for this. I think it will be fairly well-received by the voters.”