racing suing the state over gambling law
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 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.