April 1, 2013

‘Retama Park to the Capitol’ to lobby Texas legislators for video slot machines at horse tracks

Author: Mariza Mendoza, Reporter, mzmendoza@ksat.com

SAN ANTONIO – A bus full of people is heading to Austin on Tuesday morning to support horse racing and increased gambling opportunities in Texas.

The group is called ‘Retama Park to the Capitol’. Lobbying legislators for video lottery machines, also known as slots at the horse tracks, will be on the group’s agenda.

Some people think it’s a great idea if gambling profits go to good use.

“It would be great if it goes toward education and help buy books and maybe pay for teachers,” said Don Nelson, who is from Maryland.

“The kids need a lot of help. A lot of these programs, music programs, they’re cutting them and they don’t know how good it’s benefitting the kids,” said San Antonian Patricia Bass.

Others believe legalizing video gambling would just do more harm than good.

“There’s lots of venues where you can throw your money away. One more venue to throw your money away, I don’t think we need that,” said Jay Gitter.

“I find it boring and not worth throwing your money at and losing,” said Ray George. “I don’t think it would help the state.”

Retama Park Race Track recently went into the hands of a casino company on the gamble that legislation of this type will pass this year.

by Steve Blow, Dallas News

Normally I don’t like to quibble with letters to the editor. That’s where readers get their say, and I’m all for it.

But on the other hand, I hate to see the spread of bad information, especially on matters of public policy. Good decisions rest on good data.

So I cringed to read a letter last week that just didn’t have the ring of truth. I did a little research and now let me set the record straight: Vicksburg has not turned into a zombie wasteland.

In the letter, a Lavon resident wrote: “Vicksburg, Miss., used to be one of my favorite small cities in America; tons of Southern charm. It all changed when riverboat casinos came to town.

“Last time I stopped there, the casinos had been there just less than a year, but I knew something wasn’t quite right; lots of cold stares, if anyone looked at me at all.”

He went on to say that in a causal chat, a local utility worker told him service disconnections and crime “had gone through the roof” in Vicksburg.

Well, it’s hard to quantify “cold stares.” The writer makes a visit to Vicksburg sound like an episode of The Walking Dead. But crime and utility disconnects are easy to count. And officials in Vicksburg tell me neither went up when casinos opened there almost 20 years ago now.

Nicole Bradshaw is a spokeswoman for the electric utility Entergy. She said company analysts examined service disconnections and late payments after the arrival of casinos in both Vicksburg and Tunica.

“They saw no measurable adverse effect,” Bradshaw said. And she said disconnections in Vicksburg remain at the same level as the rest of the state.

I heard the same story from Tammye Christmas, manager of Vicksburg’s city-owned gas and water utilities. She has been with the department 28 years. “The casinos had no impact on disconnects or late payments here,” she said.

Ditto on crime, said Vicksburg Police Chief Walter Armstrong. He has worked in law enforcement around Vicksburg for almost 30 years and saw no change from the casinos.

This all comes up, of course, because the Texas Legislature is back in session. There is talk again of bringing casinos to Texas.

And if some are opposed, that’s fine. But we sure shouldn’t decide the matter based on urban legends and offhand conversations.

Gambling is one area where I’m all in favor of Texas legislators passing the buck. Pass it to us, the people of Texas. Just call a statewide vote on the matter and let Texans have their say.

And in the process, we could have a robust debate that separates fact from fiction about the impact of casinos, both pro and con.

Personally, I don’t much care for casinos. As a practical matter, I just can’t see Texans continuing to subsidize the taxpayers of Oklahoma, Louisiana and Nevada in such a generous way. We could sure use those jobs and taxes right here.

If a compelling case can be made that casinos are bad, I’m eager to hear it and would vote accordingly.

But here’s what I see. Thirty years ago, there were two states with casinos, Nevada and New Jersey. Today, there are 38 states with casino gambling. Twenty-four came through state approval. The rest have American Indian casinos.

Holly Wetzel of the American Gaming Association said the list of casino states grows by one or two almost every year. I asked her if experience has led any states with casinos to outlaw them.

“Nope,” she said. In fact, in a survey conducted last year, a whopping 83 percent of local political officials and community leaders in those states called the arrival of casinos an overall positive thing, she said.

Legislators, allow us a vote. More importantly, allow us a debate based on facts.

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11 March 2011


Live Racing

  • Class 1 tracks – to operate VLT’s, must offer, for TB and QH, the greater of number of live race days conducted for each breed in 2002, or 50 live race days for each breed (TB & QH)
  • Equals 205 TB days, 150 QH days per year
  • Class 2 tracks – to operate VLT’s, must offer, for TB and QH, the greater of number of live race days conducted for each breed in 2002, or 25 live race days for each breed (TB & QH)
  • Equals 150 TB days and 150 QH days
  • Class 3 – same as now

Revenue Distribution

  • Net Terminal Income (NTI) – earnings after payout to VLT players
  • 30% NTI to state
  • 12% NTI to Texas horse industry
  • 58% NTI to track

Track Funding Obligations

  • Track – max. 0.5% for capital improvements to racetrack which is matched by horse industry
  • Track – min. $1,000,000 accident insurance coverage for jockeys
  • Track License Fees
  • Requires initial application fees from racetracks;
  • $25 million for Class 1 tracks
  • $15 million for Class 2,3 tracks
  • $15 million for greyhound tracks
  • Total for all 13 tracks – $225 Million dollars
  • Payable Sept 1, 2011

Horse Industry Revenues

  • 11% of the 12% to racehorse industry thru a Texas Equine Development Fund (TEDF), for racing
  • 1% of the 12% to performance horse industry thru a Performance Horse Development Fund (PHDF), for non-racing

Texas Equine Development Fund (racing)

Where does the 11% go?

  • Max. 0.5% to capital improvements of tracks (matched by racetracks)
  • 0.025% to equine research in Texas
  • 65% of remainder to Horsemen’s organizations
  • 35% of remainder to state breed registries

Uses of TEDF

  • Purses
  • Texas-bred incentive programs
  • Other programs considered beneficial to the equine industry, including
    • Equine retirement/retraining/adoption
    • Improved drug testing and testing research
    • Other programs to improve the working environment in stable areas
    • Others ??

Performance Horse Development Fund (non-racing)

  • 1% NTI from each horse racetrack (10)
  • Total revenues in PHDF divided
    • 40% to American Quarter Horse Association
    • 20% to American Paint Horse Association
    • 20% to National Cutting Horse Association
    • 20% to Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA)

Uses of AQHA / APHA / NCHA funds:

Money from the Performance Horse Development Fund (PHDF) may be spent only for the development of the horse agriculture industry in this state through efforts intended to attract, retain, promote and encourage the breeding, raising, training, and exhibition of performance and recreational horses in this state.
Racehorses are ineligible for these funds
Examples of uses of AQHA / APHA / NCHA funds:

  • Added money to events
  • “Texas-Bred” breeding incentive programs
  • Marketing and promotion of performance or recreational events and activities in Texas
  • Scholarship programs
  • These Assn’s can craft their own programs within the parameters of the legislation to maximize the benefits of the PHDF as they deem appropriate

Performance Horse Development Fund – Texas Dept of Agriculture

Uses of Texas Dept of Agriculture funds

  • Cannot be used for events or activities being funded by AQHA / APHA / NCHA
  • Programs to be developed by TDA; they have openly asked for advice and assistance from the horse industry
  • Funds can potentially impact all 254 counties in Texas

Proposed VLT/Slot Machine Locations

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More than 800  Texas horsemen from across the State representing racing and non-racing horse disciplines joined together at the Texas State Capitol in Austin Thursday, March 31st  to support SJR 33/ SB 1118, and  HJR 111/HB 2111.   This legislation would permit Texans to vote on allowing slot machines at licensed racetracks and Indian Reservations in the Lone Star State.

The group drew attention not just from its large number of supporters present but also with animals representing the various areas that will be positively impacted with the passage of the bills. An American Quarter Horse, American Paint Horse, Thoroughbred, Mustang and two Greyhounds greeted Capitol visitors.

Grammy award winner and equestrian enthusiast Lyle Lovett addressed the group on the front steps of the Capitol. As a long-time horse owner, Lovett is aware of the plight of the horse racing in the state and how that negatively affects all areas of the industry.  “We’re hoping that by passing this legislation we will be able to sustain what has been a tremendous tradition and vital part of the Texas economy — the equine and agriculture business,” he said.

Every year, an estimated $2.5 billion leaves Texas for neighboring states with casino gaming. The operation of slots at racetracks in neighboring states provides an insurmountable economic advantage over Texas tracks. The consequence of this economic disparity has been the exodus of horses, breeding farms and other horse professionals to other states as they follow higher purses.  This leaves the Texas horse industry at an overwhelming disadvantage which threatens the very existence of a vital horse industry and agricultural enterprises in the state.

Supporters of SB 1118/ HB 2111 crowded into the chamber of the Texas House of Representatives and made their presence known when Speaker Pro Tempore Beverly Woolley (R-Houston) welcomed them to the Capitol from the house floor. Woolley is the lead Sponsor of HB 2111.

“We are extremely pleased with the turn-out today,” said Val Clark, executive director of Texas HORSE. “We are urging all horsemen who want to have a voice on this matter to contact their legislators and ask for the opportunity to vote on this in November.”



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