Hazel Park Raceway ends thoroughbred season early

Change in schedule is due to closure at Sports Creek

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published July 30, 2015

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HAZEL PARK — The thoroughbred meet at Hazel Park Raceway will end earlier than expected this year due to a change in available purse money after the closure of another track.

Aug. 8 is now the last day of the thoroughbred meet for 2015. The meet was originally scheduled to conclude Sept. 12. The track will lose 10 live race nights in all.

The sudden closure in January of Sports Creek Raceway in Swartz Creek, near Flint, is said to be the reason. Sports Creek Raceway closed when it failed to settle a contract with the Michigan Harness Horsemen’s Association, according to Ladd Biro, director of racing at Hazel Park Raceway. This also prevents Sports Creek Raceway from simulcasting.

Revenues from the two tracks go into the same purse pool. The revenues are primarily from people wagering on live races and simulcasts of races across the country.

“The major component is the purse pool,” said Biro. “When (Sports Creek Raceway) closed their doors, it eliminated any simulcast purse money they would’ve accumulated during the course of winter and into springtime, and that’s usually factored into the amount of purse money that is available at Hazel Park Raceway. It created a shortfall of $300,000 here. The original schedule was based on available and projected money, based on past revenues generated from simulcasting.”

Hazel Park Raceway attempted to address the situation by sending a letter to the Michigan Gaming Control Board requesting permission to cut back its nightly races, from nine races to eight, to spread out the remaining purse money across more nights. But the board directed them to end the season early.

Biro said Sports Creek Raceway has been selling off equipment, and he has heard that the land is up for sale, which to him suggests the track is closed for good. The Sports Creek website, www.sportscreek.com, advertises the property as being for sale.

“They (Sports Creek Raceway) are not generating any revenue. No one benefits from this,” Biro said. “The horsemen don’t have a place to race there now. There’s no money being made there for the horsemen or the track or the state. The fans lose, too — they’re part of racing, since we wouldn’t be here without them. So no one wins. Everyone loses. And down the line, this of course affects our available purse pool, since the money they once provided won’t be there.”

Biro said it’s hard to say what will happen next. Hazel Park Raceway had been enjoying renewed interest due to the return of thoroughbreds last year after a 30-year hiatus. Biro said they’re not closing their doors, and they will continue to simulcast. But he’s not sure what the state will decide next season. He noted that some tracks have reduced the length of their meets.

Hazel Park City Manager Ed Klobucher said the state has stacked the odds against the track.

“This is about the state and how they’re allocating the purse pool to the racetracks,” Klobucher said. “Hazel Park Raceway generates more revenue (for the purse pool) than it is allowed to recoup. They’re forced to subsidize standardbred racing in the state of Michigan. If the state would change that allocation equation, making it more fair for Hazel Park Raceway, it could be a much more profitable arrangement for everyone.”

Hazel Park Raceway is located at 1650 E. 10 Mile Road, at the corner of Dequindre in Hazel Park, and can be reached by calling (248) 398-1000.

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