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Michigan governor nixes horse racing bill, gambling plan put into question

TAGs: Horse Racing, house bill 5546, Legal, Michigan, rick snyder

horse-racingMichigan lawmakers voted to approve House Bill 5546 late last year, one that would would help boost the state’s horse racing industry by offering slot machines in the establishments, and thus, provide an alternative gambling attraction with the intention of boosting the horse racing industry.

Sounds like a fair plan, right? Well, it is…except the bill is likely to expire since it needs the signature of Gov. Rick Snyder, who has already gone on record saying that he has no plans of signing the bill, effectively sending it to a piston-whipped dumpster.

Talking to MichiganLive.com, Snyder’s spokesman Caleb Buhs reiterated the governor’s fears regarding the bill’s “unconstitutionality”, especially since it doesn’t have voter approval on local and state levels, could end up being a far bigger headache than it’s current form. Buhs is alluding to a 2004 amendment that requires voter approval for any new gambling initiative in the state.

But according to proponents of the bill, the 2004 measure doesn’t apply to the bill’s current set-up and the governor’s signature would’ve been enough to send the bill into law. Having said that, a strong group of individuals – casinos being the strongest voices – agreed with the governor’s actions, or in this case, inactions, saying that had the bill been signed into law, it would potentially create a firestorm of controversy and legal challenges that would have likely tied up the bill anyway.

Sending the bill through the right channels appears to be the only way House Bill 5546 can get any form of backing from the governor. It’s not a slam dunk that voters will approve of it anyway, but it’s certainly a better route to take than the one that ‘pocket vetoed” flashing over it with the audaciousness of those Vegas neon lights.

Certainly, it’s something that needs to be carefully considered, particularly for the state’s horse racing industry, which has been on a steep path towards obscurity in the past decades, having lost most of its luster to casinos and other forms of gambling that have become more popular in the state. Since 2005, four horse racing tracks have closed in the state, leaving only three of them in operation. The tracks have been seeking for new attractions on their sites in an effort to provide their customers with a gambling alternative to horse racing. But the quest for these slots have become harder than a thoroughbred winning a Triple Crown, especially with the state’s casino owners firmly entrenched on the opposite side because of they’re reluctance to provide these racing sites with gambling competition for their establishments.

Even going back to that 2004 amendment, casino operators were strong supporters seeking to have a constitutional amendment that would require most types of gambling bills, including those for horse racing, to be subjected to voter approval. Incidentally, the casinos themselves are exempt from this amendment. Guess we know why their so hell-bent on seeing this bill get scrapped on the gov’s desk, huh?

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