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Robert Geake Ends Term as Racing Commissioner

22 December 2004

Duty, honor, wisdom, calmness under fire, steady, smart and committed to service. This is what comes to mind when I think about Robert Geake, Michigan's Racing Commissioner. On Monday of this week, the Office of the Racing Commissioner held a reception honoring him for the job he has done for the past two years. Mr. Geake was appointed Racing Commissioner by Governor John Engler to fill out the remaining two years of the Annette Bacola term. He came in with enthusiasm and a strong focus on doing something to revitalize this critical segment of the agriculture industry.

Geake's tenure as Racing Commissioner came at a difficult time. Faced with stiff competition from Lottery and the casinos throughout this time, the horse racing industry has been hurting. Yet, incongruously, Mr. Geake probably saw more applications for track licenses than any of his predecessors. This renewed interest was spurred by the potential for video lottery terminals at the tracks, which both Houses of the State Legislature approved (in separate bills). This fall's passage of Proposal 1, requiring a statewide and local vote for any further gambling expansion, changed the economics of the equation for all of these applicants. Yet, despite this fact, to date, none of the applicants have withdrawn their new track applications. Many of them have, however, amended their applications to reflect these changes which will likely make it impossible for Mr. Geake to grant the one Detroit-area license that is available before the end of his term. My guess is that he is quietly very frustrated by this. Yet, you would never see it on the surface.

A few months ago, Mr. Geake surprised many people by granting a new track license for a Lansing area turf racetrack. The new track calls for the development of a full scale equestrian facility that will be world class and have many uses besides just racing. This development holds some great promise for the future of racing in Michigan.

Before becoming Racing Commissioner, Mr. Geake had a long history of true, in the trenches, public service. He was a state representative from 1972 to 1977 and, beginning in 1977, a state senator for 21 years. As the only senator with two operating race tracks in his district (Ladbroke Detroit Race Course and Northville Downs), Mr. Geake was very involved with the racing legislation proposed during that time. In 2001, he was appointed by the Governor to be the Children's Ombudsman for the State of Michigan. Mr. Geake has a doctorate in education and psychology and a Master of Arts degree in guidance and counseling. Throughout his very distinguished career, he has shown a passion for addressing issues relating to children, adoption, foster care, mental health and public health.

At the reception on Monday, Deputy Racing Commissioner Jim Bowes presented Mr. Geake with a beautiful bronze horse trophy. Mr. Geake expressed his appreciation noting that, in his household, it is usually his wife or daughter who brings home such trophies from their involvement in equestrian activities. Mr. Geake and his veterinarian wife Carol operate a ten acre horse farm in Northville Township where they raise and show Arabian horses.

Mr. Geake said that he would be working straight through the end of his term, noting that there was still a lot of work to do. Duty, honor, wisdom, calmness under fire, steady, smart and, above all else, committed to service - a real role model for all of us.

One of my favorite phrases tacked up on my desk is, "Live a good, honorable life. Then when you get older you can look back and enjoy it a second time." Robert Geake truly has a lot to enjoy.

David Waddell
David Waddell is an attorney for Regulatory Management Counselors, P.C. (RMC), which assists businesses in navigating the legislative, regulatory and licensing systems governing Michigan’s commercial and tribal casino industries. He is the co-author of The State of Michigan Gaming Law Legal Resource Book and one of the founders of The Michigan Gaming Newsletter.

David Waddell Websites:

www.michigangaming.com
David Waddell
David Waddell is an attorney for Regulatory Management Counselors, P.C. (RMC), which assists businesses in navigating the legislative, regulatory and licensing systems governing Michigan’s commercial and tribal casino industries. He is the co-author of The State of Michigan Gaming Law Legal Resource Book and one of the founders of The Michigan Gaming Newsletter.

David Waddell Websites:

www.michigangaming.com