HomePublicationsNewsletter ArchiveNewslettersVolume 20Issue 3MGCB Executive Director Amends Race Meet Schedules: Thoroughbred Racing to Return to Hazel Park and Northville Downs

Richard Kalm, Executive Director of the Michigan Gaming Control Board who acts as the Horse Racing Commissioner, issued Executive Orders earlier this week amending the 2014 race meet schedules at Hazel Park Raceway (“Hazel Park”), Northville Downs (“Northville”) and Mount Pleasant Meadows. The amended schedules for Hazel Park and Northville provide for a return of thoroughbred racing to both tracks and reduces the number of race dates at Mount Pleasant Meadows. 

The Executive Orders issued by the MGCB on  January 21, 2014, relating to Northville Downs and Hazel Park Raceway, divided both tracks’ respective race dates into two “meets.” The two meets have been divided into Standardbred racing and Thoroughbred/Mixed Breed racing. Hazel Park Raceway will hold 10 Standardbred race dates from April 12 through May 3 and 32 Thoroughbred/Mixed Breed race dates from June 29 through October 11, for a total of 42 race dates. Northville Downs will conduct 10 Standardbred race dates from March 7, 2014 through April 5  and 16 Thoroughbred/Mixed Breed race dates from October 12, 2014 through November 16, for a total of 26 race dates.

The number of race dates at Mount Pleasant Meadows was also amended via Executive Order issued by the MGCB, which provides for a reduction of 27 of its previously proposed race dates. The track’s original application, which has been amended on numerous occasions, requested 43 race dates.

To access these Executive Orders, please visit http://www.michigan.gov/mgcb/0,1607,7-120-57232_57211_57213---,00.html

The release of the amended schedules resulted in some commentary from the Michigan Harness Horsemen’s Association (“MHHA”), which represents the standardbred owners’ interests.  The MHHA had been negotiating with the tracks regarding the sharing of commissions from simulcast purse pools. 

The MHHA responded to the announcement of the amended schedules by arguing that the Horse Racing Act required all 2014 applications to be approved or denied by November 1, 2013, and that Mr. Kalm should not be amending the schedules as this point in time. The MHHA ruther expressed concerns with the potential impact of the changes on the horse racing industry.

In response to these comments, yesterday Executive Director Kalm issued a press release. It provides as follows: 

Following a public hearing held on October 24, 2013, four tracks presented plans and requested race days pursuant to law. The process requires the four Michigan tracks (applicants/licensees) to request dates and have a contract with a certified horseman’s association for horse supply and other operating agreements. The contracts necessary between some of the certified horsemen’s organizations were yet unsigned. MHHA had a contract that spans 2014 with Northville Downs and Hazel Park which did not specify any number of race days.

Hazel Park and Northville Downs expressed a desire to race thoroughbreds in 2014 as part of their requested dates. MHHA was not in agreement that Hazel Park split the days they requested with the thoroughbreds.

The Executive Director urged all sides to come to an agreement as to the race schedule that coincided with the tracks’ requested dates, the intent being the maximization of live race date opportunities for the entire industry. The Executive Director can only act on the applicant’s, request not those of other parties.

On multiple occasions we encouraged the licensees to get together with the certified horseman groups to work out differences and a solution to allow all groups an opportunity to race at Hazel Park and Northville Downs. The Executive Director delayed signing the final amended orders multiple times at the request of the MHHA leadership to allow for additional negotiations.

All tracks were granted the number of race days they requested. Northville and Hazel Park were granted breed-neutral days at their request in order to offer both harness and thoroughbred racing. Race dates requested and approved are: 42 days at Hazel Park; 26 days at Northville Downs; 16 at Mt. Pleasant Meadows; and 11 at Sports Creek.

Further noted; the contracts signed by the MHHA and the HBPA are between the respective organizations and the tracks. The gaming board does not interfere with those contracts agreed upon between the parties as long as their outlined activity is consistent with the Racing Act. To order a licensee to vary from their agreed upon contract is not in practice or within the scope of our authority.

The MHHA further expressed concern that allowing the tracks to charge horsemen to race (the charging of a entry/starter) violates the applicable racing statute.  In response, Executive Director Kalm stated that he does not believe this is against the Horse Racing Act or Rules.  He noted that the entry/starter fee is a negotiated amount agreed upon by the certified horsemen organization (“CHO”) and the track and is paid to cover track related matters.  “This money is not co-mingled with the purse pool money.  The starter bonus is an amount of money negotiated by the CHO and track to be paid from prizes awarded out of the purse pool for horsemen who start each race.  If the horse does not start, the track will refund the entry/starter fees.  The tracks and the CHO are willing participants.”


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