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In and outs of the political campaigns, focusing on Michigan and Lansing, Tim Skubick will report regularly throughout the primary and then general election campaigns.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Casino Wars Round Two

When the beleaguered horse racing industry, with he governor's
blessing, tried years ago to legalize slot machines at race tracks, the
existing Indian and Detroit casinos went to war to kill it and they did.
Casino wars, round two, is coming up.
This time the folks who run Hazel Park want more than just slot
machines, they want to turn the state's five tracks into full fledged
casinos which would provide even more competition with the 26 casinos
already in business.
Backers need 400,000 petition signatures to put this puppy on the
November, 2010 statewide ballot. If they get enough names, and they
can buy them easily, then they have to convince you to expand gaming
here from 26 to 34. That sell job will be tougher because the other
side will pump in even more money to kill this thing again.
Proponents have a new twist in their strategy, however. They are
going to make sure that every county, all 83 of them, get a part of the
profits. And the backers are willing to turn over 30% of the profits to
the state and earmark the money for education, police and fire
protection and all the other high profile essential services they can
find. That will have curbside appeal.
Note that the current casinos send only chump change to the state
and local governments so you could see groups such as the Michigan
Municipal League, the Michigan Township Association and maybe even the
Michigan Education Association get on board. Where there is money to
be had, special interest groups tend to line up.
Of course, some will argue there is a saturation point. That there
are just so many smoking senior citizens to visit these venues and you
could create a thousand casinos and that would not mean more gamblers
would show up.
But that will not deter the sponsors who want to save the racing
industry which is coming around the club house turn, headed for the
graveyard.
When casino gaming got started, then Gov. John Engler noted, he did
not want Michigan to become the Las Vegas of the Midwest.
Well if this new scheme passes, somebody dust off the bumper sticker
that reads: What happens in Michigan, stays in Michigan.

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