HomePublicationsNewsletter ArchiveNewslettersVolume 18Issue 12Horse Racing Legislation Advances in Michigan Legislature

On Thursday, April 26, 2012, the Michigan Senate Committee on Agriculture voted to refer Senate Bill 1075 (“SB 1075”), which would amend the state’s Horse Racing Law of 1995, to the Committee of the Whole and to give the bill immediate effect. The vote follows the House Committee on Agriculture’s vote  on Wednesday, April 25, 2012 to refer House Bill  5546 (“HB 5546”), which mirrors SB 1075, to the order of Second Reading of Bills.

If passed, the concurrent legislation would amend the Horse Racing Law of 1995 to provide a near complete overhaul of the current statute. SB 1075 was introduced by Sen. Joe Hune (R-Hamburg) and Sen. Vincent Gregory (D-Oakland). HB 5546 was introduced by Rep. Kevin Daley (R – Lum).

The legislation seeks to expand the type of wagering that occurs at tracks to allow wagering on not only live horse racing but on any form of pari-mutuel games or activities.

Mike O’Connor, Vice President of Table Games at MGM Grand Detroit testified to the Senate Agricultural Committee that pretty much any casino style gaming could be adopted to use a pari-mutuel wagering system.  Thus, passage of this legislation could lead to the tracks operating much like casinos according to his testimony.

Representatives of the horse racing industry have indicated an intent to take advantage of technological advances through passage of this legislation.  One such advance that they are seeking is the use of “Instant Racing” machines, which look and operate much like slot machines.  These machines have recently been the subject of controversy and litigation in Kentucky.

The Michigan Constitution (as amended by Proposal 1 of 2004) requires both statewide and local voter approval of any form of gambling authorized by law after January 1, 2004.  Opponents of the Legislation have indicated that it is unconstitutional under this provision.

Shoshanna Levine, an attorney representing Hazel Park Raceway told the Agricultural Committees that there is no constitutional issue because “pari-mutuel” wagering is not specifically in the scope of the constitutional provision on gambling activities and that pari-mutuel wagering has been allowed in Michigan since the 1930’s.

Notably, Paul Connors, legislative liaison for the Michigan Department of Treasury expressed opposition to the legislation on behalf of Governor Snyder’s administration.


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