04/29/2004 11:00PM

Michigan Senate OK's slots

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The Michigan Senate on Thursday passed a bill authorizing slot machines at racetracks in the state by a vote of 20-18, but not before cutting out provisions that would have legalized offtrack betting and account wagering.

The Senate bill faces an uncertain future in Michigan, where existing casinos have lined up to oppose the measure and Gov. Jennifer Granholm has said she will veto any bill authorizing more gambling at tracks unless legislators first balance the budget.

Last year, the House passed a bill legalizing slot machines at tracks, but the Senate and House bills differ substantially. As a result, the bills will go to a conference committee charged with hammering out the differences between them. The new legislation would need to be approved by both the House and Senate.

The Senate bill would allow each track in Michigan to operate at least 500 slot machines. Each machine would be subject to a $15,000 one-time license fee, and track owners would keep 20 percent of the revenue. In the House version, track owners would retain 42 percent of the revenue.

The prospect of slot-machine gambling has created a run on racetrack licenses in the state. Eight groups have applied to open new racetracks in Michigan.