HomePublicationsNewsletter ArchiveNewslettersVolume 20Issue 10Michigan Harness Horsemen's Association Files Suit Against the State

On February 24, 2014, the Michigan Harness Horsemen’s Association (“MHHA”), representing the interests of Standardbred racing, filed a Petition for Writ of Mandamus and Ex Parte Order to Show Cause with the 30thCircuit Court (Ingham County) naming the Michigan Gaming Control Board  (“MGCB”) and its Executive Director (and acting Racing Director for the State of Michigan), Richard Kalm, as defendants. 

The filing comes on the heels of two Executive Orders, issued by Mr. Kalm on January 21, 2014, amending the race meet schedules for the Hazel Park and Northville Downs racetracks to provide for the return of Thoroughbred racing at both of the venues while reducing the number of dates scheduled for Standardbred racing.

The complaint includes three counts surrounding the approval of the amended racing applications, claiming that the approval of the amended applications violates the Horse Racing Act of 1995 (“HRA”); that purse pool contracts entered into under the amended license applications violate the HRA; and asking the court to compel the MGCB and Mr. Kalm to “hold a hearing ordering them to immediately justify their positions” regarding the amended application and contract approvals.

On Friday, March 28, 2014, the state filed a Motion to Dismiss and/or for Summary Disposition in the matter. The filing states, in part, that the MHHA “is trying to use the extraordinary remedy of mandamus as a means of negotiating a contract with two horse racing tracks in Michigan.” A hearing is scheduled for May 7, 2014 on the motion.

Mr. Kalm also issued a letter shortly after the approval of the amended applications on January 24, 2014. The letter states, in part:

On October 31, 2013 and November 1, 2013, Executive Orders were issued granting Hazel Park and Northville Downs Race Meeting Licenses to conduct live and simulcast racing. The Race Meeting Licenses awarded race dates, but were breed neutral, meaning the breeds to be raced were not specified. This was done to give the tracks the opportunity to submit additional information regarding their proposed and requested thoroughbred track conversion plans. It also permitted a cooling off period to allow [MHAA]and the Gaming Board to explore the possibility of expanding Harness Race date opportunities with the tracks. The orders were issued as required by Nov. 1.

During this process I complied with our statutory responsibilities by approving the race meeting licenses to applicants that met the contract demands of the Certified Horsemen Associations (CHO) involved at their tracks. The applicants (tracks) made the decision to present a different product to their customers with the goal of increasing interest in the sport and perhaps making a profit….

Our intent is, and has always been, to maximize live racing opportunities for the horsemen.

To view the Executive Orders issued by Mr. Kalm, as well as the January 24, 2014 letter, please visit: https://www.michigan.gov/mgcb/0,4620,7-120-57232---,00.html

 

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