07/06/2004 12:00AM

Michigan group fights gambling

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An unlikely coalition of interests opposed to expanding gambling in Michigan filed signatures with election officials on Monday, seeking to require voter approval for any additional gambling in the state.

The group, calling itself Let Voters Decide - YES, is backed by existing casinos and anti-gambling forces and filed more than 500,000 signatures. If at least 317,757 are found to be valid, a state constitutional amendment will appear on the Nov. 2 ballot that would restrict gambling retroactively to Jan. 1, 2004. The amendment would require each prospective new gambling enterprise to get both state and local approval at the ballot box.

The amendment would hamper efforts to establish so-called racinos in Michigan. Versions of racino bills have passed in both the state House and Senate, and the measure is currently in conference committee. There are currently 11 applications for new track licenses awaiting the approval of Robert Geake, the state's racing commissioner.

The most prominent of the applicants, Magna Entertainment Corp., received non-binding voter approval last December in Romulus, a suburb of Detroit where Magna plans to build a new racing complex.