VLT Bill Spurs Rush on Michigan Track Licenses

A bill that would allow video slot machines linked to the lottery at horse racing tracks has set off a rush of applications for new tracks in Michigan.

The proposal is to allow up to 2,000 of the video machines at each of Michigan's existing seven tracks. It also could apply to new tracks.

Four new racetrack applications already are pending before the state racing commissioner. And others have made preliminary inquiries about building tracks.

A state Senate committee may soon take a vote on the measure after sitting on it for nearly a year after the House approved it.

Bill Nowling, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Ken Sikkema, R-Wyoming, said Tuesday that the "racino" package will come out of committee after legislators' two-week Easter break, the Detroit Free Press reported Wednesday's editions.

Nowling made no predictions on how the full Senate would vote on the package once it makes it out of committee. But he said the bill's backers say they have enough votes.

Still, the chance that the machines would be allowed at the tracks has prompted the applications. Until that aspect was introduced, no one had sought to open a new track in Michigan in nearly 20 years. And some existing tracks have closed or fallen on hard times.

Other states have seen a similar revival of interest in horse racing when slot machines are added to the equation.

The applications come from a real-estate developer from Trenton and one from Lansing, Ontario-based track operator Magna Entertainment and a group of Detroit-area businessmen who have proposed a track at the State Fairgrounds.

Opposition to the racino bills has been intense, especially from Detroit's casinos, which are considering a petition drive for a ballot measure to block slots at tracks.