Horsemen Day at the Capitol

Texas HORSE Week at the Capitol

Texas HORSE to Hold “Horse Week at the Capitol” on April 1-5, 2013

On February 22, Senator Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa (D-District 20) filed Texas State Senate Joint Resolution #36 and enabling Senate Bill #789 that call for a constitutional referendum to allow video lottery games at licensed horse and Greyhound racetracks and by Indian tribes under the regulatory authority of the Texas Lottery Commission and the Texas Racing Commission. Subsequently on March 6, Representative Richard Raymond (D-District 42) filed companion legislation HJR #121 and HB #2729 also calling for a constitutional referendum to allow video lottery games at licensed horse and Greyhound racetracks and by Indian tribes.

To support these measures, Texas HORSE will hold “Horse Week at the Capitol” on April 1-5. Texas HORSE is calling for all Texas horse owners, breeders, trainers, jockeys, track employees and racing fans to come to Austin the week of April 1-5 to meet their Texas State Senator and Representative to tell their story and ask for their legislator’s support for video lottery games at Texas racetracks.

To make reservations and receive assistance in arranging your visits with your elected officials, please call one of these organizations: Texas HORSE at (512) 934-2974 or (817) 845-2917; Texas Thoroughbred Association at (512) 458-6133; or Texas Quarter Horse Association at (512) 458-5202. You will be asked to provide the information on the attached registration form. Online registration is also available at click here.

Of equal importance is to now call, e-mail, fax and send letters to your Texas State Senator and Representative expressing your support for video lottery games at Texas racetracks. You should give your testimony on how the competition from racinos in surrounding states have forced  breeders, owners, trainers, jockeys, and especially Texas horses, to breed and race outside of Texas. Tell your legislators that this year Texans will wager an estimated $2.5 billion at racetrack casinos in these surrounding states thereby creating purses monies 3 to 4 times higher than at Texas racetracks.

Explain that horse racing in Texas has seen dramatic declines in race dates (-41%), races (-48%) and purses (-47%) over the last ten years. Every time one Texas horse is sent to Louisiana, New Mexico or Oklahoma to breed or race, we are exporting more than $25,000 in annual economic impact.

You can get your Senator’s and Representative’s contact information at http://www.capitol.state.tx.us. If you are not sure who your Senator or Representative is since redistricting, you can enter your zip code on the lower right-hand side of this web page to find out immediately.

About Texas HORSE: Texas HORSE (horse organizations for racing, showing, eventing) comprises the largest group of horse organizations in Texas united to introduce and pass legislation to help Texas regain its leadership position within the American horse industry.

For more information about Texas HORSE, contact Executive Director Dan Fick at (817) 845-2917 or dan@texas-horse.com.


2011 Texas Horsemen Gather at State Capitol

11x14-dsc_1549eMore 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 31, 2011 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.

Lyle Lovett and Two Bits

Lyle Lovett and Two Bits

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.
5x7-dsc_1475eEvery 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.
img_8688Supporters 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.”
See more photos on Texas HORSE FACEBOOK.

The Capitol steps: Parks in play, dog and pony show for race tracks

By Christy Hoppe dallasnews.com (2011)

Singer Lyle Lovett made a pitch for allowing slot machines at Texas race tracks on Thursday, part of a growing wave of rallies at the Capitol underscoring severe budget cuts.

About 500 horse and dog supporters turned out to press lawmakers to allow slot machines at the state’s existing tracks as a way to revive the racing industry and bring in $1 billion a year to help fill state coffers.

The message comes on the same day as environmental and tourism advocates warned that the proposed budget will close seven state parks, eliminate money for local parks and playgrounds, and slash the Texas Parks and Wildlife agency by 25 percent. It would also end leases for 1 million acres of public hunting land.

This week, the Texas Hospitals Association already has warned the proposed cuts to trauma centers — 37 percent at some hospitals – will lead to permanent damage in the health care infrastructure. Professional groups already have predicted that the state’s Medicaid cuts will lead to as many as half of the state’s nursing homes closing.

On Friday, the people with disabilities, advocate for poor children and groups that provide home care also will decry budget cuts that will lead to the institutionalization of many. The all-day vigil will include school teachers and public employees, who face lay-offs in the tens of thousands.

The pro-gambling forces harkened to these harsh realities and what Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio, called a “budget crisis,” to push lawmakers to open the state to more gaming.

Lovett held a symbolic check made out to the citizens of Texas for $538 million – the amount that the comptroller estimated could be raised by slot machines by next year.

He said afterwards that his family has operated a small quarterhorse breeding operation, “for all of my life.”

Because slot machine gambling is available in states surrounding Texas, it has drained much of the gaming money away from horse tracks and the state, Lovett said.

“So we’re hoping that by passing this legislation to be able to sustain what has been a tremendous tradition and vital part of the Texas economy – the equine and agriculture business,” he said.


‘Dog and pony show’ for slot machines

Lyle Lovett among racetrack gambling advocates

Josh Hinkle kxan.com (2011)

The outline of little pink lips scattered across an 18-year-old auburn-colored horse named “Insider Tips” Thursday afternoon at the Texas Capitol. In an effort to make lawmakers see how much the day’s purpose meant to her, Lane Hutchins puckered up before planting another kiss on the animal’s forehead.

“This is my friend,” Hutchins laughed, as the horse snorted. “He’s a retired race horse. Now I teach middle-aged women to ride on him.”

After hitching her trailer that morning, the longtime horse breeder drove from Fredericksburg to Austin. Smooching equine was a norm, but lobbying for slot machines at racetracks was definitely out of the ordinary for Hutchins.

“Our industry is in serious trouble,” she said. “I don’t want to have to race out of state. I want to keep our money here and our jobs.”

Texas is up against neighboring states like New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Louisiana with a competitive, gambling advantage.

“We have hundreds of horsemen here today, and we hope that will make a difference and change some minds hopefully,” one supporter shouted from across the Capitol lawn.

Race horses and dogs mingled together during the noon hour, joined by someone who said racing has been in his family for years – musician Lyle Lovett.

When asked if he had written a song about slot machines, he chuckled, “You know, I might have to write a song about it after spending a day here at the House and Senate.”

Senators in attendance said slots at race tracks and Indian reservations alone would give the state $800 million dollars in the next biennium and more than $2 billion in each to follow. Plus, there would be an $88 million dollar annual economic impact.

“It will create 77,000 new jobs in the state of Texas, jobs that belong to working people here in our state,” said Sen. Juan Hinojosa, D-McAllen.

“This is a way to generate significant revenue for the state treasury without raising taxes,” said Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio.

However, gambling as a revenue source has been pushed aside by social conservatives in past sessions.

“Exploits the poor, because the very people who don’t have resources to gamble are the ones who gamble hoping to hit the big jackpot,” said Pat Carlson of the Texas Eagle Forum.

Hutchins said this session’s $27 billion budget shortfall might be just what her group needs to send slots through.

“With a little bit of luck and a lot of prayers,” she laughed.

Slots are among several pieces of gambling legislation already being considered in a House committee. On the Senate side, it might have a tougher time.

So far, it has not come up in a Senate committee. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said earlier in the week he has not heard it has enough support to make it off the floor if it ever gets there.


Lyle Lovett joins others at Capitol for gaming legislation rally

by KVUE News (2011)

Lots of supporters showed up at the state Capitol Thursday to rally for gaming legislation. The supporters included a real cowboy and his horse.

Lots of pro-gaming forces from the Texas racing industry, including many from Retama Park near San Antonio, and a noted Texas singer who is also a horse rancher, Lyle Lovett.

“Our state is no longer competitive with our surrounding states in terms of money we can generate here,” Lovett said. “We’re looking for new non-tax sources of revenue and this is a significant source of non-tax revenue.”

Pro-gambling forces want legislators to put the issue before voters saying citizens have the right to decide if gaming is right for Texas.


Slots rally draws hundreds of people to Capitol, singer Lyle Lovett joins the effort

by Tim Eaton, statesman.com (2011)

A rally of people supporting slot machines at racetracks drew several hundred people to the Capitol today.

Singer-songwriter Lyle Lovett joined the cause – along with several horses and greyhounds – as two state senators spoke in favor of Senate Joint Resolution 33 and House Joint Resolution 111.

Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, and Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio, told the crowd that the measures would be a money-maker for Texas as it suffers from a massive budget shortfall.

Win for Texas, the group pushing for slots at tracks, has said that slot machines at 13 tracks in Texas would generate more than $3 billion a year in revenue. At the group’s proposed tax rate of 30 percent, the taxes coming into the state would be about $921 million a year by 2013.

The senators’ measure – along with a resolution by state Rep. Beverly Woolley, R-Houston – would allow for a statewide election on a constitutional amendment. For expanded gambling to become a reality in Texas, two things must occur. First, two-thirds of the Legislature must approve the legislation. Then, voters would have to approve a constitutional amendment.

So far, leaders in both chambers have said they don’t have the votes to pass the measure. But proponents in the Legislature have said they remain optimistic.

Lane Hutchins, a horse breeder from Fredericksburg, said today that slot machines at tracks would help a struggling horse industry.

Standing alongside retired race horse Insider Tips, Hutchins said that the money slots would bring would allow for a healthier horse racing industry in Texas. Without slots, purses would remain low and horse owners would continue to take their horses to states with higher purses, she said.

“They have gone over to Louisiana in droves,” she said.

But the effort of slots proponents does not represent the only horse in the race for increased gambling in Texas.

Another group, the Texas Gaming Association, is pushing a bill that would allow casino gambling in Texas. The group’s bill would also allow for slots at eight tracks and at three Texas Indian reservations.

The Texas Gaming Association, which is promoting “destination resort casinos,” said the measure it is supporting would generate $6.6 billion a year in revenue for a total of $1.3 billion in annual state taxes, according to its report. (Under the tax rates outlined in the casino bill, casinos would generate $771 million a year and slots would bring in $515 million annually when everything is up and running.)

Efforts are also underway to allow slots at bingo halls and increased gambling at Indian reservations.