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Two New Tracks Proposed for Racing Fans

4 September 2002

In the past two weeks, two major proposed racetrack developments have been announced, one in mid-Michigan and the other in Romulus. Both track proposals could have a significant impact on growth of the racing market and could make the overall gaming market in the southern half of Michigan far more competitive.

A company named EQTAH Group, headed by Andy Stronach, submitted an application for a new track in Webberville near Lansing. EQTAH is seeking approval for 45 racing dates for the 2003 season. The application notes that the company will hold a "mixed breed" meet including primarily Quarter Horses, although there will be some Thoroughbreds and Appaloosas. The track will also seek to have a state-of-the-art simulcasting facility and is shooting to open this facility by the first quarter of next year. Currently, the closest track to the Lansing market is in Swartz Creek, roughly 45-50 minutes from Lansing. Webberville is also in close proximity to Livingston County (Howell and Brighton) which is one of the fastest growing counties in the state.

Annette Bacola, the State Racing Commissioner, had the following initial reaction to the proposal: "At first glance, the EQTAH Group has substantial entrepreneurial savvy and we are anxious to take a further look at the proposal to see if it will be in the interests of Michigan racing."

The other new development is a major new dual meet (Thoroughbred and Standardbred) facility proposed for the City of Romulus, in close proximity to the Detroit Metropolitan Airport. This facility is being proposed by Michigan Racing, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Magna Entertainment Corp., a major international horse racing company which currently operates Great Lakes Downs, the state's only Thoroughbred track, in Muskegon.

Jim McAlpine, president and chief executive officer of Magna, remarked: "We have always viewed Michigan as an important market for horse racing and the Detroit metroplex as the ideal location for the development of a modern racetrack facility. Michigan horse owners and breeders of all types have expressed a keen interest in working with Magna in the development of a new racetrack facility in this area. The population base in the area is also strongly supportive of various sporting and gaming initiatives. We are hopeful that our application will be viewed favorably and look forward to working with the City of Romulus, the Office of the Racing Commissioner and the Michigan horse industry in order to successfully complete this project. Once appropriate approvals are obtained, we will phase the development within our multi-year capital expenditure program."

Magna, one of the largest operators of horse racetracks in the United States, acquires, develops and operates horse racetracks and related pari-mutuel wagering operations, including off-track betting facilities, and owns and operates a national account wagering system called XpressBet.

The prospect of Magna's 220-acre track met with a very positive initial reaction from the State Racing Commissioner. Ms. Bacola gave the following statement to The Detroit News last week: "This could be a huge boost to Michigan racing. It would be a world-class facility and catapult Michigan into being a world-class racing state. With the quality of horses they are targeting, they could easily fly horses in from all over the world because it's close to the (Detroit Metro) airport." Further information on this facility can be found in Bev Eckman and John Bebow's excellent Detroit News article.

Both proposals for new track facilities must first get approval from the Office of Racing Commissioner. Given the industry's struggles in recent years, there certainly will be many interests which need to be weighed and balanced. The prospect of new competition may not be good news for the existing tracks. However, for the racing fan, it has to be welcome.

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