Horsemen Pay for Restoration of Racing Dates

Horsemen Pay for Restoration of Racing Dates
Photo: Pinnacle Race Course

After the Michigan-based Pinnacle Race Course in April had its race dates cut back to just three days for the remainder of the fiscal year due to budget constraints, the state’s Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association stepped in with a solution—though it would come at a cost.

The Michigan HBPA has helped the track restore the 44 days it had been scheduled to run at the beginning of the meet, but funding a regulator through the Michigan Gaming Control Board for 28 of those days is required to come out of the track’s purse fund.

While Pinnacle was originally approved for 84 dates in 2010, financial problems with the state’s budget caused them to be cut back substantially. Pinnacle, the state’s only Thoroughbred track, which is based near Detroit, will now conduct live racing just two days a week—Saturdays and Sundays from June 5-Oct. 31.

When asked about the possibility of funding for next year, Michigan HBPA executive director Gary Tinkle said the situation doesn't look promising.

“It’s pretty grim; there’s a lot of talk, but we’ve had that for quite a few years,” Tinkle said. “Obviously we’re going to attempt to salvage this industry. But the whole thing stems from the governor (Jennifer M. Granholm) cutting the Agriculture Equine Industry Development Fund fund by 77%. For some reason, that particular fund was targeted.

"I don’t know if there was any other budget area that was targeted to that degree—I don’t think so. But that’s where it all stems from. Our simulcast revenue is only down about 17%. So it appears to be a systematic destruction of the industry.”

On the Michigan HBPA web site, which is frequently updated by Tinkle, the question is raised as to why state revenue from the 3.5% simulcast tax, which totals more than $4.1 million, cannot be used to fund the Office of Racing Commissioner to regulate its remaining live racing dates.

“Many feel it appropriate to fund the (MGCB) regulators from the simulcast tax,” the web site note states. “That certainly makes sense and eliminates the continuous uncertainty that seriously impacts our business plans.”

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