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Michigan horse racing suing the state over gambling law

Michigan horse racing suing the state over gambling law In the wake of the Kentucky Derby one thing has become apparent - horse racing is a disappearing form of gambling in the U.S. Horse tracks and other interests have long fought with the casinos and state lotteries, while  watching their profits drastically decline over the years. And last week yet another battle raged in this war between the casinos and the horse tracks, this time in Michigan. Northville Downs and other Michigan horse racing interests have filed a federal lawsuit against the governor Jennifer Granholm and state attorney general Mike Cox alleging that state restrictions on installing video lottery terminals and other forms of gambling at Michigan horse tracks violate the U.S. Constitution, as well as that the casinos and the state lottery are killing the horse racing industry in the state.

 According to the lawsuit, betting on horse racing in Michigan has experienced a 45% slump over the past decade, from $474.6 million in wagers in 1997 (before the three Detroit casinos opened) down to $261 million in 2007. Great Lakes Downs, the state's last thoroughbred track, was also shut down last year, following the 2005 closure of a harness racing track in Saginaw. "Without legislative relief, you will see the end of horse racing in Michigan within three years. It's very serious," warned Phillip Maxwell, an attorney for the plaintiffs.

 The main target of the lawsuit is the amendment to Michigan's Constitution passed as a result of a 2004 ballot initiative, which prevents the Michigan horse racing from installing video lottery terminals at the tracks and benefiting from innovations such as betting over the phone. Horse racing interests in the state allege that the provision was financed by the state's casinos and as a form of protectionism, it violates the equal protection, due process and commerce clauses of the U.S. Constitution. The horse racing interests in Michigan want the court to declare the provision invalid. The case is assigned to U.S. District Judge Avern Cohn.

 Published on 05/04/2008

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