As an executive with a 22-year career at The Meadows Racetrack & Casino, Mike Jeannot achieved a long list of accomplishments, but his biggest was the work he did on key legislation that helped to revive Pennsylvania’s horse racing industry.
Jeannot, 61, president of Meadows Racing for The Meadows Racetrack & Casino, died Friday after battling liver cancer.
The Meadows said in a press release that although he had been diagnosed months ago, he continued to work until the end of 2013.
State Sen. Tim Solobay, D-Canonsburg, said Jeannot contributed in his role as vice president of government relations for the racetrack to the Pennsylvania Race Horse Development and Gaming Act of 2004, which allowed alternative gaming in Pennsylvania.
“I’ve known Mike for my entire 16 years in the legislature,” Solobay said. “He was kind of the go-to guy to keep me posted on how things were going in the industry and improvements that they needed … He was instrumental in making sure the improvements at the track were being done and working in conjunction with the horse owner’s group (Meadows Standardbred Owners Association).”
Solobay said Jeannot cared deeply about the racetrack, horses and employees. He recalled Jeannot’s devastation over the July 2001 barn fire at The Meadows that killed 28 horses.
“You would have thought he lost a child,” Solobay said of Jeannot’s reaction. “Mike took it very personal because that track was like his second family.”
George Crawford, executive secretary of the Pennsylvania Harness Racing Commission, who previously served as the commission’s track manager at The Meadows, said Jeannot was “more than just someone you worked with every day.
“He was someone who offered to his friends and colleagues a part of himself,” Crawford said in a statement. “Mike gave his time, energy and talents to ensure that what you did working together at the Meadows was the best anyone could offer.”
Jeannot was The Meadows Racing president since 2009 and previously held positions as director of off-track betting operations and vice president of operations.
Originally from Kenosha, Wisc., he graduated from the University of Wisconsin and began his career as a pastry chef and later as an executive with Lawry’s The Prime Rib Restaurant & Steakhouse in Chicago and Dallas. He underwent a career change after accepting a position with Inter-Track Partners, a consortium of Illinois tracks.
Among his many achievements at The Meadows, Jeannot expanded the racetrack’s phone-account wagering and simulcast operations and introduced interactive account wagering technologies. He also worked on various projects alongside the Racing Commission and the Meadows Standardbred Owners Association.
Kim Hankins, executive director of MSOA, said Jeannot understood the perspective of both management officials and the horsemen.
“He was a very fair man, honest and to the point, so we knew where we stood,” Hankins said in a news release. “At the same time, he understood the things that we needed. We’re deeply saddened by his passing.”
“The entire Meadows family is saddened by the passing of Mike,” said Bill Paulos, principal of Cannery Casino Resorts, which owns The Meadows, “His enthusiasm for his work, combined with his genuine and warm personality, made him a special member of our team. Mike’s presence will be sorely missed. We will continue to keep the Jeannot family in our prayers in the days and weeks to come.”
Jeannot is survived by his wife, Jo, of Moon Township, and their two sons, Christopher and Benjamin.
The Meadows is planning a tribute to Jeannot, and funeral arrangements are pending.