HomePublicationsNewsletter ArchiveNewslettersVolume 18Issue 35Horse Racing Bill Referred Out of Michigan Senate Committee

On Thursday, November 29, 2012, the Michigan Senate Committee on Agriculture voted to favorably report House Bill 5546 (“HB 5546”)to the full Senate. The bill would overhaul the state’s horse racing industry and authorize forms of electronic gaming at horse tracks. The bill was passed in the House on November 8, 2012.

The Bill, introduced this April by Rep. Kevin Daley (R – Lum), seeks to update statutory horse racing requirements to reflect the role of the MGCB Executive Director to act in the capacity of Racing Commissioner and to expand the type of wagering that occurs at tracks to allow wagering on historic races utilizing electronic machines.

The legislation would allow the use of “Instant Racing” machines, which look and operate much like slot machines, and allow users to wager on historical races. The machines use data from past races and provide the user with a limited amount of information about the horses to assist in determining the wager. The video display can appear much like a slot machine or video lottery terminal, but the determination of winners is purportedly based on the outcomes of the past races.

The Michigan Constitution (as amended by Proposal 1 of 2004) requires both statewide and local voter approval of any new form of gambling authorized by law after January 1, 2004.  Opponents of the Legislation have indicated that the electronic-game portions of the proposed legislation are unconstitutional under this provision. Recent amendments to the Bill state that all electronic wagering allowed under the Bill would be “limited to wagering on the results of horse races, but include all technology and innovations related to horse races and wagering on the results of horse races that may exist now or in the future.”

At Thursday’s Senate Committee hearing, Mr. Dan Adkins, Vice President of Hazel Park Raceway, testified that the present bill language strictly limits wagering to only pari-mutuel wagering, which is currently legal under state law. Mr. Adkins further noted that the proposed Bill would not authorize any new form of gambling, but instead would allow the horse racing industry to offer existing forms of wagering through new technologies.

Mr. Marvin Beatty, Vice President of Public Relations for Greektown Casino, and Ms. Jacci Woods, Vice President of Public Affairs for MotorCity Casino, stated that if expanded gaming activity is to be authorized, statewide and local voter approval must be obtained prior to any new expansion because of Proposal 1 of 2004. Mr. Beatty further noted that current law sets forth a clear process, established by a voter-initiated constitutional amendment, which should be followed whenever any such new form of gaming is proposed.

Notably, Dave Marley, a representative for Governor Snyder, submitted a card to the Committee indicating that the Governor is currently opposed to the legislation without further comment.

In order to become law, the bill must now be approved by a majority of the Senate, and approved by the Governor. It would also likely have to survive a court challenge under the Michigan Constitutional provisions discussed above.

 

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