Because of reduced funding, the Michigan Gaming Control Board on Thursday issued a mandate that all racetracks significantly decrease the number of live racing dates in 2010, including cutting the dates at the state’s flagship harness track, Hazel Park, to just 29 programs. The Michigan Harness Horsemen’s Association called for an emergency meeting of its board of directors on Thursday afternoon to discuss possible remedies to the situation, although the decision of the Gaming Control Board appears irreversible.
“This has nothing to do with purse money; the horsemen will have purse money,” Hazel Park director of operations Ken Marshall told harnessracing.com. “This has nothing to do with operational and management issues and costs of racing. It’s certainly a struggle but we are willing participants. The tracks and the horsemen have the funding to go forward. The problem is that the state does not have the revenue to pay for its employees. That’s where the issue is.”
Hazel Park, which at one time raced as many as 168 dates in a year, had been awarded 62 dates in 2010, with racing from April 30 through Sept. 18. The new mandate calls for racing Fridays and Saturdays only from April 30 through Aug. 6. There will then be a dark period of harness racing in the metro-Detroit area until Northville Downs opens for just two days on Sept. 24-25 (the fiscal budget year ends Oct. 1).
Northville Downs is currently the only racetrack open for live racing in Michigan, and that track's dates have been reduced to just 11 more days of racing (Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays) through March 27. On the Thoroughbred side, Pinnacle Race Course’s dates have been slashed from 84 to 31, with racing Fridays, Saturdays and Mondays from June 4 through Aug. 13.