Racetrack Gaming Measure Passes Michigan House

by Tom Schram

Legislation to allow electronic gaming at Michigan racetracks was approved by the state House of Representatives May 22, just two days after the release of a poll that indicated the public overwhelmingly disapproves of the prospect.

The video lottery terminal bill is part of a package of bills sponsored by Republican Rep. Larry Julian, speaker pro-tem of the House. It allows for 500-2,000 gaming terminals at the seven established racetracks in the state.

A bipartisan coalition of 35 Democrats and 26 Republicans passed the bill by a 61-42 margin. A separate bill that calls for off-track betting parlors and telephone account wagering passed by a similar margin.

In separate actions, the House voted to increase the minimum wagering age at tracks from 18 to 21 and increase the penalty for tampering with VLTs. No action was taken on another part of the legislative package, a bill to allow simulcasting at the three Detroit casinos.

The bills now go to the state Senate and, if passed, to the desk of Gov. Jennifer Granholm.

The action came shortly after release of the poll by Marketing Resource Group for Inside Michigan Politics. Sixty-six percent of registered voters in the poll said they oppose the legislation. Only 25% said they support it.

The opposition encompassed every geographical and demographic grouping, with strongest support (33%) coming from men and strongest opposition (79%) from homemakers. Opposition was also strong (75%) in northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula.

The poll of 600 Michigan voters was conducted May 5-9. Pollsters said the margin of error was 4.1%