Day At The Track

A million dollars needed to re-open track

09:25 AM 01 Aug 2015 NZST
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Jackson Raceway
Jackson County received a harness racing license from the state July 28, one of the steps needed before racing can return to the fairgrounds after it was disbanded in 2009

JACKSON, MI – While a track license highlights one step toward harness racing returning to Jackson County, lawmakers and proponents are quick to point out there are still several steps to go.

One million steps to be exact.

Jackson County received a horse racing track license for its fairgrounds from the Michigan Gaming Control Board on Tuesday, July 28. The license is good for two years.

Now, track proponents must find the funds to reopen the track to harness racing in Jackson.

"We still need about $1 million in purse pool funds to reopen the track," said Brett Boyd, Jackson Raceway LLC owner, who has spearheaded the effort to revitalize horse racing at the fairgrounds since the practice was discontinued in 2009.

State law reserves purse pool money — millions of dollars — for existing tracks, making it difficult for new tracks to get the funds necessary to begin. The MGCB has proposed bringing together track management to come up with a proposal to change state laws, but board representative Mary Kay Bean said the meetings "haven't proved fruitful."

Boyd said he hopes that pressure from state lawmakers and the harness racers themselves will push track managers and the MGCB to shift the law in Jackson County's favor.

"The racers would love another track to go and make money," Boyd said. "It's no secret, though, that other track owners aren't thrilled about more competition."

Boyd requested about $1.2 million in purse pool funds to conduct 28 races at the county fairgrounds in 2015 but was denied by the MGCB, which cited state law.

State Rep. Earl Poleski, R-Spring Arbor, said there has not been movement yet on changing state laws to accommodate allocating yearly purse pool funds to tracks not open the year before. However, with the news of a track license at Jackson County fairgrounds, the possibility of change is gaining momentum.

"It's now a matter of getting support from the (horse racing) industry," Poleski said. "They're by no means a united force."

Poleski said he'll continue to work toward a law change, and Boyd said residents shouldn't be surprised if a proposal is presented before next summer.

"We're moving in the right direction," Boyd said.

Will Forgrave covers city and county government for the Jackson Citizen Patriot.

Contact him at wforgrav@mlive.com or 517-262-7554.

Follow him on Twitter at @WillForgrave.

Reprinted with permission of the www.mlive.com site

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