Casino Owner Latest to Seek Michigan Racing License

by Tom Schram

Chalk up an added entry in the already crowded field to build a Thoroughbred racetrack in the Detroit metropolitan area.

Millionaire Detroit businessman and casino owner Don Barden told the city council in the Detroit suburb of Westland April 19 that he plans to seek racetrack licenses in several locations including Westland, Detroit, and the suburb of Taylor. The next day, applications from Barden for four track licenses arrived at the Office of the Michigan Racing Commissioner..

There are four other requests for track licenses before the Office of Michigan Racing Commissioner:

-- Magna Entertainment Corp., the largest racetrack operator in the United States, is seeking a license to open a facility in suburban Romulus. MEC also wants to transfer its license from Great Lakes Downs near Muskegon to the proposed Romulus facility. Michigan law prohibits ownership of more than one license.

-- Real estate developer Sam Danou has applied for a license in suburban Van Buren Township.

-- Lansing real estate developer Dorian Lange has applied for a license for a track near the state capital.

-- A group of Detroit investors has applied for a license to build a track at the state fairgrounds in Detroit.

Fueling the rush for licenses is legislation currently stuck in a Michigan Senate committee that would allow video lottery terminals at tracks. The package of bills would also drop the prohibition of owning more than one license.

The Michigan House sponsor of the legislation, Rep. Larry Julian, said the week of April 12 he expects a Senate vote to take place within a month.

The Detroit area has been without a Thoroughbred racetrack since Detroit Race Course in suburban Livonia closed its doors in 1998.