Snyder pocket vetoes bill that would have allowed new gambling machines at Mount Pleasant race track

Jeffrey Smith/Staff Photographer Coleman resident Kevin Long watches and bets on live races around the country Saturday afternoon at Mount Pleasant Meadows, 500 N. Mission Road. House Bill 5536 was pocket-vetoed by Gov. Rick Snyder, which would have allowed racing machines at venues such as Mount Pleasant Meadows. "I wouldn't use the machines, but it might help attract a younger crowd," Long said. "Anything would be beneficial... there's a lot of jobs tied in here."

Local racetrack officials are feeling left in the dust after Gov. Rick Snyder pocket vetoed a bill that received overwhelming support in 2012.

Chris Christensen, the manager of Mount Pleasant Meadows, 500 N. Mission Road, hopes House Bill 5546, which would have allowed slot machine-type games at horse race tracks, will be reconsidered in order to revive the decades-old industry of horse racing.

“This whole bill will hopefully be signed and give us an opportunity to make changes,” Christensen said.

One such change would be the installation of “video lottery terminals,” which allow patrons to bet on historic horse races.

The bill would have allowed the installation of new gambling machines in the four remaining Michigan horsetrack locations: Sports Creek Raceway in Swartz Creek, Hazel Park Harness Raceway in Hazel Park, Northville Downs in Northville and Mount Pleasant Meadows.

Snyder received the bill on Dec. 28 but let it sit on his desk with no signature. Because the legislature sent Snyder the bill after it adjourned last month, it automatically died after 14 days under legislative rules.

Rep. Kevin Cotter, R-Mount Pleasant, was not among the lawmakers in support of the bill. Cotter voted no on H.B. 5546 and supports the governor’s decision to pocket veto the bill.

“While I support the horse racing industry in Michigan, I don't believe that an expansion of gaming at horse tracks through casino-style machines is the answer, nor do I believe it is constitutional,” Cotter said.

Frank Cloutier, director of public relations for the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan, was pleased to hear the bill would not receive Snyder’s signature.

“I was very happy that the governor agreed with our state attorney general and realized it was more important to protect our constitution than to give special interest groups opportunity,” Cloutier said.

Coleman resident Kevin Long, 53, said the video lottery terminals would have been helpful, even if he wouldn't use them himself. He has been placing bets at Mount Pleasant Meadows for close to six years.

“A lot of people's complaints about races in general is the wait time,” Long said.

Long said horse racing is a pastime he shares with his mother, who has been betting at the track for more than a decade. He would consider anything beneficial if it helped the struggling industry out, even if that meant trying to attract a more youthful generation.

“We need to bring in a younger crowd. People don’t know how many jobs are locked in here,” he said.


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