12/14/2012 4:44PM

Michigan Instant Racing bill goes to governor


A bill that would allow wagering on historic race results, better known as Instant Racing, was passed by the Michigan Senate early Friday morning and awaits the approval of Gov. Rick Snyder to become law.

Under the bill’s guidelines, 15 percent of revenues from Instant Racing would go to the horsemen’s purse pool. Also included is a measure to increase Michigan-bred breeders’ awards from 10 percent to 15 percent of a race’s gross purse to the winner. Instant Racing machines are currently in operation at tracks in Arkansas and Kentucky.

“It’s a positive move for the industry,” said Gary Tinkle, executive director of the Michigan Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association.“It’s an issue that we’ve been challenged with for several years with respect to allowing the racetracks to have a little fairer playing field. Hopefully, it’ll stop the downturn in our industry that has taken place for the last several years.”

The vote came at 3 a.m., near the end of a marathon session in the Senate, which passed the Instant Racing bill by a margin of 24-11. The bill was originally introduced in the state House, where it passed in November by a vote of 91-16.

Snyder, a Republican, has not publicly stated whether or not he would sign the Instant Racing bill. He has 14 days to sign or veto the bill before it automatically becomes law.

“The governor has not personally spoken to it,” Tinkle said. “We just hope that he understands the situation and will fight the fight with us to save this industry.”

Michigan currently has four parimutuel tracks in operation: mixed-breed Mount Pleasant Meadows and Standardbred tracks Hazel Park Harness Raceway, Northville Downs, and Sports Creek Raceway.

The state’s racing and breeding industries have shrunk considerably over the past two decades, further expedited by a tribal casino-backed ballot proposal in 2004 that effectively handcuffed the state’s tracks from adding expanded gaming. Since 1998, Michigan has had shuttered five tracks, including Thoroughbred venues Detroit Race Course, Great Lakes Downs, and Pinnacle Race Course.

“It’s extremely important to the racetracks,” Tinkle said. “It allows them to put a new product on their shelves and offer a little more fair competition with the gaming industry in Michigan. Then, of course, there’s additional purse money for the horsemen as well. If the tracks start to have an opportunity to increase their position, that’ll help the horsemen.”