The immediate future of racing in Michigan is in jeopardy for the second time this year as the racetracks prepare to cease operations as of Nov. 5 due to the lack of funding from the state, a situation made even more dire by Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s recent line item vetoing of virtually all of the monies directed toward horse racing.
The first time this year that funding issues came into play was in late July when state money ran out to operate the Office of Racing Commissioner, which resulted in the Michigan Harness Horsemen’s Association taking $75,000 out of its purse pool to provide funding so that Hazel Park could continue its live race meet.
This time, it appears that avenue is not likely, so unless some sort of legislative relief comes in the next week a total shutdown of the tracks could be imminent. Live racing is currently being held at Northville Downs, but with a state auditor necessary at all the tracks because of simulcasting, all sites would have to close because there would be no money to pay that person.
“This is political football being played with the budget,” said Hazel Park director of racing Ken Marshall, who said he is remaining optimistic that funding can be found to preclude any shutdown. “This is like being in the 15th round and if we’re going to down, at least we’re going to go down swinging. This battle is not over yet.”
When announcing her line item vetos last week, Gov. Granholm stated, "I believe that horse racing programs should be self-supporting. I would support restoration of funding for the horse racing grants and regulatory activities utilizing equine development funding or other funds generated by the horse racing industry."
Included in the governor's vetos were more than $1.1 million toward funding of fairs, racing and producer security; $586,400 in Standardbred breeders' awards; $1,083,000 for Standardbred Sire Stakes; and $490,100 for Standardbred training and stabling. She also vetoed $2.5 million for the Office of Racing Commissioner, which was expected since she previously order the office disbanded and placed under the auspices of the state’s Gaming Control Board effective early next year.