A state that at one time was the home of the legendary Seabiscuit and once was the springboard for Black Tie Affair’s 1991 Horse of the Year campaign might be perilously close to the end of thoroughbred racing as we know it. Recent events are casting doubt on the future of Michigan’s equine industry.
In the last few weeks, Hartman and Tyner, Inc — the owner of Hazel Park Raceway — began divesting in their parimutuel ventures. The gambling and real estate outfit sold their West Virginia greyhound track and it was announced just five days ago that the owner of the legendary Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami (Jeffrey Soffer) is purchasing the Mardi Gras Casino and Racetrack in Hollywood, Florida, another dog track.
Those sales have led to speculation in the Detroit horse racing community that Hazel Park will be shuttered at the end of 2018 if a buyer cannot be found. Hazel Park is the last of the Hartman and Tyner gambling entities. And with the onerous restrictions on horse racing in the state of Michigan due to the lobbying efforts of the Detroit casino owners, a purchase of Hazel Park isn’t likely.
Thoroughbreds returned to Hazel Park in 2014 after an absence of 30 years, leaving Northville Downs as the only standardbred track in the state. The closures in recent years of Sports Creek Raceway in Swartz Creek, Jackson Raceway and Mt. Pleasant Meadows left Hazel Park and Northville as the only racetracks still in existence in Michigan. And one has to wonder how long those two will be around.
The death of Herb Tyner in 2015 and a subsequent legal fight between his heirs and Bernie Hartman could have led to these recent sales but that is just pure speculation on my part. From what I’ve been told, there isn’t much interest in the dog and horse racing business among the next generation of Hartmans and Tyners.
And the future of Northville Downs has always been in doubt due to the valuable downtown land the track sits on in the upscale suburban community.
With the Detroit casinos having killed any chance of the tracks obtaining slot machines in the past through their “purchase” of the state legislature, there is only one Hail Mary pass that I can see which could potentially save horse racing in Michigan.
In the next few months the Supreme Court of the United States is expected to rule on Christie et al v. NCAA et al 16-476; and New Jersey Throughbred Horesmen’s Association v. NCAA et al 16-477. Those are the lawsuits in front of the highest court in the land that will determine if Nevada will be able to continue its ridiculous monopoly on legalized sports gambling.
If SCOTUS rules in favor of New Jersey — and many court observers believe they will — the two race tracks should immediately begin the process of moving forward with a ballot initiative to bring sports betting to Michigan.
It would also behoove Democrat gubernatorial hopeful Gretchen Whitmer to make this a central plank of her campaign. Look, we all know that Hillary Clinton had an extremely difficult time getting caucasian males to vote for her in 2016.
Well, what better way to get WHITE MEN to rally behind your candidacy than the promise of Hazel Park, MGM and Motor City Casino offering legalized wagering on the NFL, college basketball and more?!?!?!!?!? Whitmer needs to get ahead of this now and announce her full support if and when the Supreme Court opens up the floodgates.
If that law and order idiot Bill Schuette would be dopey enough to take a stance against SPORTS BETTING in Michigan, Whitmer would have a legitimate issue that male fuckstick Donald Trump voters might care about.
It’s worth a shot and it’s the RIGHT THING TO DO. Why shouldn’t the Michigan Department of Treasury get a piece of sports gambling instead of illegal bookies who don’t even pay taxes on their income? Unless you are dumb enough to think that MILLIONS AND MILLIONS of dollars won’t be wagered illegally in this state two weeks from Sunday.
If sports gambling could somehow subsidize the horse racing business, it could save the sport in this area. It’s probably the last hope we’ve got.
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