NORTHVILLE TWP., Mich. (WJBK) - If you didn't know any better you'd think live horse racing in Michigan is being put out to pasture.
Hunter Pasteur homes announced Tuesday its contract to buy Northville Downs and replace it with up to 600 apartments, luxury homes and townhouses. Northville Downs is the last live horse racing track in Michigan. The Hazel Park raceway closed earlier this month.
"I don't like it, I want the Northville Downs to stay," says resident Leah Gargaro. "I think it's a part of history. I don't know how they're going to squeeze 500 to 600 new homes onto that lot. It just seems like this town is going to get really small really fast."
"I'm just surprised," says Matthew Shaw. "Horse racing seems to be thriving down south, I don't know why it's dying up here."
Northville Downs has a contract to continue operations through the 2020 racing season. It's also searching for a new location.
"The trick here is having enough revenue to support the investment," says Tom Barrett with the Michigan Harness Horsemen Association. "That's really the issue. When you have seven tracks close in 15 years or 17 years, you have to question making that investment and that's where additional revenue opportunities for a race track facility is something we have to get done in Michigan or racing is going to disappear entirely."
Barrett says that hinges in part on support from state lawmakers. There is a bill sitting in the senate that would allow people to place bets on smart phones or computers at home.
The Supreme Court will decide if states like Michigan can legalize sports betting. Barrett says those money makers would revive a dying sport.
"Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana have slot machines at the racetrack and that's part of what's driven the success in those states," he says.
"Racing has just gone down the river in Michigan," says Richard Carter.
Northville Downs regulars like Carter will make the most of what time they have left here. And if there's no paddle to get back up in stream by the end of 2020, there still may be a silver lining of sorts.
"I can't speak for the diehard fans but for me, personally, it's going to hold me back a little bit," says Shaw. "It might save me some money, I’m not going to lie."