2020 could be a significant year for thoroughbred horse racing with a possible reestablishment of a thoroughbred track. On October 31, 2019, the Michigan Gaming Control Board Executive Director issued an Order granting a 2020 race meeting license and simulcast permit to AmRace & Sports, LLC (“AmRace”) for 10 days of live racing on Fridays and Saturdays from August 7, 2020, to September 5, 2020. AmRace & Sports, LLC has acquired the previous Sports Creek harness track and is working to convert the track to a thoroughbred track. Last year, AmRace voluntarily surrendered the track license it had been granted, noting former Governor Snyder’s veto of the Advanced Deposit Wagering (“ADW”) bill and suggesting that without supporting legislation the overall economics were not present to allow it to move forward. AmRace indicated at that time, however, that it would remain committed to the process and noted that it would seek beneficial legislation. See related story, in Volume 25, Issue 4 of the Michigan Gaming Newsletter.

Earlier this month, the Michigan Legislature once again passed HB 4310 which permits third party facilitator licenses for ADW at Michigan horseracing tracks. This bill was presented to the Governor on December 13thand was signed on December 20. Additionally, the state Senate passed a bill (SB 661) that would permit “historical horse racing” at tracks. This bill has been referred to the House Committee on Regulatory Reform.

The Michigan Gaming Newsletter touched base with AmRace & Sports LLC to get an update on its plans for 2020. In response, Nelson Clemmens, CEO of AmWest Entertainment LLC, stated:

“AmRace & Sports LLC remains committed to our efforts to bring Thoroughbred racing and breeding back to Michigan through establishing a fiscal foundation that will support viable and sustainable industry economics and growth, as well as allow for the significant investment that AmRace is prepared to make.”

Mr. Clemmens further provided insight as to their current thinking on the viability of reopening the track based on the current state of law and legislation in Michigan.  He stated:

We are working constructively with the other Michigan horse racing stakeholders through the legislative process to attain this common goal for all operators. The benefits to Michigan for a successful outcome will be extensive in the agricultural, tourism, employment and service sectors of the state economy in addition to the significant tax revenues that will be contributed to the state treasury. Towards this end, we have realized the passage of the ADW bill through both Houses and the passage of the HHR bill through the Senate by a unanimous 38-0 vote. The ADW bill provides for a positive contribution to the future of the state horse racing and breeding industry and we look forward to having the MGCB putting that in place in the near future. But it is having the HHR pari-mutuel revenues that will make it possible to operate a viable racing and track program. Without HHR our goals cannot be met. So, we clearly hope that the House will pass the HHR legislation as soon as possible and that the Governor will then affirm her support and sign it into law.”

Historical Horse Racing has been a controversial wagering product in several jurisdictions where it has been introduced. The machines involved in this process provide players with a slot machine type experience. One of the most recent states to see the introduction of these machines is the Commonwealth of Virginia, where the machines are being operated by Colonial Downs at a facility called “Rosie’s Emporium”. Colonial Downs has put out a video showing how to play these machines available at the following link, which demonstrates the different modes that players can choose, including an “autocap” option that allows the players to just keep spinning without going through any process of selecting horses in a race: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Rmh5K3pXwg.

 

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