Northville Downs racetrack debacle lives on

May 28, 2024  PLYMOUTH VOICE.

Plymouth Michigan News


With a $10 million federal lawsuit hanging in abeyance, owners of Michigan’s last parimutuel horse racetrack are reportedly scrambling to find a new home to replace the now dismantled Northville Downs.

On the drawing board is the Handy Township Fowlerville track that is being considered for a temporary home.

The Northville Downs, LLC versus Plymouth Charter Township lawsuit was filed in February. Owners John and Mike Carlo have retained former state attorney general, Mike Cox, alleging the township made illegal demands “that amounted to extortion” of millions of dollars in exchange for approval of their planed harness racing facility.

Plymouth Township is no longer an option disgruntled Plymouth Township Supervisor Kurt Heise, told to US – the large national gambling and sports betting authority.

“It’s a ridiculous argument, frankly, and we are going to be filing a motion to dismiss this case in the weeks ahead,”. “We are not paying $10 million, we are going to have the lawsuit dismissed, Northville Downs is not coming to Plymouth Township and is actively trying to sell the property.”

Cox told Hometown Life after filing the lawsuit that the Carlo brothers would still like to build the proposed facility in Plymouth Township.


Northville Downs owners’ eye temporary fairgrounds location

By Mike Seely

US Bets

On May 13, ground was broken on a multi-use development at the former home of Northville Downs, providing a final, physical sign that, after 80 years of horse betting in Northville Township, Michigan’s last commercial racetrack had hosted its last race.

As if that weren’t enough, the Carlo brothers’ contentious effort to relocate the track to a large parcel of land it had purchased in Plymouth Township has come to a clear end as well. Colliers realtor Randy Book confirmed that he’s the listing agent for the property, which is on the market for $12 million and has attracted interest from prospective buyers in the data storage and manufacturing sectors.

And yet, racing at Northville — or, more accurately, racing put on by the owners of the Downs — may soon be resurrected if the Carlos can get the requisite approvals to temporarily host live races, along with parimutuel and simulcast wagering, at the Fowlerville Fairgrounds in Handy Township.

According to the Michigan Harness Horsemen’s Association’s Feb. 15 minutes, John and Mike Carlo (who did not return calls seeking comment) joined former MHHA President Tom Barrett and the organization’s sitting secretary, Claudia Cary-Davidson, for a walk-through at the Fowlerville Fairgrounds, with the Fowlerville Family Fair’s board unanimously approving the prospective partnership. (Cary-Davidson is, incidentally, also the vice president of the Fowlerville Fair’s board.)

“The fair has been fantastic,” the MHHA’s new president, Brett Boyd, told US Bets. “The spirit of negotiations has been positive, with the sole focus of how we get our horsemen more opportunities.”

Hurdles remain

Despite the good vibes, there are still hurdles to clear. The Carlos must secure a special event permit from Handy Township to run races at the Fowlerville track, which is currently only set to host two days of racing, July 22 and 23, as part of Michigan’s fair circuit.

Should Handy Township get on board, the Carlos would still have to get its Fowlerville Fair operation licensed and sanctioned by the Michigan Gaming Control Board.

“To date, the MGCB has not issued any licenses or approvals for future horse racing in Michigan,” an MGCB spokesperson told US Bets. “To race, a person would need to apply for and receive a track license from the MGCB, in addition to completing the process of applying for and receiving a race meeting license. Until the MGCB issues both, no parimutuel wagering can occur.”

Moreover, this spokesperson added that Michigan’s horse racing law “requires an applicant to apply for a minimum of 30 live racing days per year, and the MGCB must approve a minimum of 10 live racing days in a year. If they don’t hold the minimum amount of required live racing, they cannot offer simulcasting or advance deposit wagering.”

Common ground between rivals

Ultimately, the Carlos plan to find a site on which they can build Northville Downs 2.0. When they purchased such a parcel in Plymouth Township, things seemed headed in the right direction before taking such a pronounced nosedive that the track filed a $10 million federal lawsuit against the township’s government, claiming that its request for certain community benefits amounted to extortion.

“It’s a ridiculous argument, frankly, and we are going to be filing a motion to dismiss this case in the weeks ahead,” Plymouth Township Supervisor Kurt Heise told US Bets. “We are not paying $10 million, we are going to have the lawsuit dismissed, Northville Downs is not coming to Plymouth Township and is actively trying to sell the property.”

Heise is facing a bitter reelection challenge from another Plymouth Township trustee, Chuck Curmi, a staunch opponent of the track’s relocation plan who nevertheless voted in favor of the community benefits, agreed “because if you have to have something bad, you should have some benefit.”

It’s saying something that both Heise and Curmi agree that Book’s prospective buyers are of an ilk that is, in Curmi’s words, “perfect” for what the township envisions for the aborted Northville Downs property and the 5 Mile Road corridor.

Added Heise, “No matter what you do, in this day and age, there’s always going to be pushback, but those kind of projects are absolutely in line with the overall vision for the MITC development zone along 5 Mile. It’s a very attractive site. It was already fully developed — there’s water, there’s sewer, there’s already a road in place. It’s beyond shovel-ready. All they have to do is build a building.

“I think the really good news here for the residents is Northville Downs is not coming to Plymouth Township.”

LINK to US story


Plymouth Voice.

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