Is Texas racing dead?

15 September 2012

By Gary West

“Sin ain’t sin if good people do it.”  Shannon Edmonds, head of governmental relations for the District and County Attorneys Association of Texas.

If you’ve noticed Texas horse racing at all lately, you’ve probably noticed that it’s dying. But don’t mistake this death for anything natural. This will be murder. And I know the murderer’s identity.

Yes, I’ve watched enough Law & Order to know that to make a case I need to adduce a weapon and a motive, but that’s easy because there have been so many weapons over the years  candid indifference, purulent

stupidity and exponential hypocrisy, as well as the lotto, the Internet and the slots, but not the slots you might think, or not only those, oh no, but the ones right here in Texas, the fruit-spinning, bell-ringing

slot-machine-look-alike gizmos that aren’t even called slots for fear that just saying the word might turn the speaker into a pillar of salt.

More than $2 billion rings and dings through these gizmos annually, and, of course, these are dollars lost to horse racing and horsemen. State and local governments profit from the machines in the form of taxes and

licensing fees. And the machines aren’t even legal, not really, not as gambling devices anyway. Morever, hundreds of millions of dollars flow out of Texas in the form of wagers over the Internet, they’re also

dollars lost to horse racing and horsemen, and that’s not legal either. Yes, horse racing’s getting killed here.

As for a motive, that’s easy, too, because in Texas  but wait: Lest a sudden crash into volubility keep me from fingering the killer, perhaps I should supply some context.

With Epsom Downs in Houston, Alamo Downs in San Antonio and Arlington Downs between Dallas and Fort Worth, horse racing was very popular in Texas in the 1930s, according to historical accounts. In 1934, Arlington

Downs’ attendance averaged 6,734. Lawrin, who would go on to give Ben Jones his first Kentucky Derby victory, raced at Arlington Downs in 1937. But that was also the year the legislature repealed the law allowing

pari-mutuel gambling in the state.

Was the first attempt on horse racing’s life? Maybe, but Texas had more horses than Florida had suntans, and Texans weren’t going to let some troglodyte in Austin tell them they couldn’t race. And so some raced

their horses at small, non-pari-mutuel tracks in the state, such as Lubbock Downs, where the great Dash For Cash made his debut. And many, such as Willard Proctor and Bob Kleberg of King Ranch, simply raced

elsewhere, and everywhere, from California to Kentucky to New York to England.

So many cowboy hats, in fact, remained actively involved and so many fans from Dallas and Houston and San Antonio traveled around the country and routinely drove hours to neighboring states just to attend racetracks

that the sport regarded Texas as something of a promised land. Just wait until Texas gets racing again, horsemen said; that’ll be the place to go.

Only it hasn’t worked out that way. What was expected to be a promised land for racing could become instead a wasteland. Attendance, handle, purses and dates  everything has fallen and faltered. At Lone Star Park at

Grand Prairie, located between Dallas and Fort Worth, not far from the old Arlington Downs site, purses have sunk lower than they were when the track opened in 1997.

But perhaps the best metric of decline is the horse population. Between 2000 and 2010, the foal crop, or number of Thoroughbreds born in the state, declined 59.06 percent, according to The Jockey Club. And it gets

worse. So far this year, according to Dave Hooper of the Texas Thoroughbred Association, only 640 Texas foals have been registered in the state, which would represent a decline of 68 percent since 2000. Farms have

shut down and something that once couldn’t have been imagined has happened: Texans have loaded up their horses and left.

Texas racing was once so promising, too. It’s seems fanciful now, but only eight years ago, Lone Star Park was host to the sport’s championship event, the Breeders’ Cup. So what happened?

Well, nothing happened. That’s why horse racing is dying. Local and state officials are killing horse racing with their benighted indifference. They’re killing horse racing with their ignorant and unsympathetic

inertia. And while doing nothing to enable racetracks to be competitive, they’re also doing nothing to protect the sport from predators. Officials are killing the sport with their longstanding ostrich-strategy on


Yes, Texas has strict gambling laws. Slot machines are illegal here. Racetracks can’t have them. And yet, according to Don Hoyte of TexasEconomicImpact, there could be as many as 150,000 slot-machine-look-alike

gizmos in the state.

They look, ring and ding like slot machines, but they’re called eight-liners. They’re not illegal as long as there’s no cash payoff for winning. There can, however, be prizes. And so, wink wink, people play to win

toilet paper and stuffed animals. Game rooms overflowing with such machines reportedly have opened up in several counties where people can play until the small hours of the morning because, I suppose, they fear a

future shortage of toilet paper or hope to create a zoo of stuffed animals, wink wink.

In an excellent piece of investigative journalism, in the Austin American-Statesman, Eric Dexheimer writes: “Among law enforcement officers and prosecutors, the near universal consensus is that the rooms can’t

thrive without operating outside the law and paying cash.”

Dexheimer points out that several counties and cities have come to look upon these eight-liners as a rich source of revenue. Duval County, for example, charges an $800 licensing fee for each machine; so far this

year, the county once famously implicated in the “stolen” election of 1948 has collected nearly $600,000 from game-room operators. And tiny Gregory, Texas, pop. 2,000, has collected about $800,000 in licensing fees,

which will cover 80 percent of the city’s entire annual budget.

“Part of the new unspoken arrangement between the game rooms and local officials,” Dexheimer writes, “is, as long as the money flows, potentially inconvenient legal questions are left unasked.”

Shannon Edmonds, head of governmental relations for the District and County Attorneys Association of Texas, quoted by Dexheimer, suggests that the state’s law on gambling devices is intentionally vague. In other

words, it’s intentionally easy to ignore.

And so that’s the weapon, or one of them, officials are using to kill racing: monolithic indifference. Government’s first and foremost role is to protect. But in Texas, there’s little or no effort to protect horse

racing from illegal competition.

“Certain groups have historically opposed gambling of any kind in Texas,” Hooper said. “That’s why there are strict gambling laws, and so it’s puzzling that we have this huge proliferation of gambling. And it’s not

regulated at all. Who knows what those machines pay out? It’s just incredible.”

Although Dexheimer writes about South Texas, where the slot-machine-look-alike gizmos seem most conspicuous and numerous, the problem is statewide. I’ve seen the machines in truck stops and quick stops; I’ve even

seen them right down the road from Lone Star Park. Some people just can’t get enough toilet paper and stuffed animals, I guess.

The irony is that if slot machines ever become legal for the state’s racetracks, there would probably be fewer gambling machines in Texas than there are right this moment.

For years, of course, Texas racetracks have pushed for legislation that would allow them to have slot machines. Every poll has shown an overwhelming majority of Texans would approve such legislation. But neither the

polls nor public approval matters. And what really matters leads to the motive for murdering horse racing: Getting the support of the political party that dominates state elections requires a candidate to act as if

he has been in a coma for 20 years and isn’t even aware that slot-machine-look-alike gizmos and Internet gambling even exist. Yes, it’s hypocrisy of Krakatoan magnitude.

And so in Texas, where gambling’s illegal, there are more than 1,200 licensed operators of charitable bingo games and about 16,000 locations for buying lottery tickets. It’s estimated that Texans bet $1 billion

illegally on sporting events each year, $2 billion illegally on slot-machine-look-alike gizmos and several hundred million illegally over the Internet, and none of that money finds its way to the state’s racetracks

or horsemen. By the way, Texans take another $4 billion annually to casinos in other states. But state officials do nothing, either to protect or assist. And that’s murder.

The only thing missing is a body

 | Categories: News |

By Clifton Adcock, Oklahoma Gazette

An industry many considered nearly extinct has been rescued from the brink, and, as it turns out, one of the things that some speculated would lead to horse racing’s demise ended up saving it.

In 2004, Oklahoma voters passed State Question 712, which created the State-Tribal Gaming Act and allowed horse racetracks to have electronic games on the premises.

In the run-up to the 2004 election, those in horse racing said the measure was needed to keep the faltering industry alive.

Now, those in the business say Oklahoma has turned around what at the time looked to be the last days of horse racing, and by saving the racetracks once thought doomed, have helped an economically important industry.

“I think it’s fantastic. That might be an understatement,” Justin Cassity, executive director of the Thoroughbred Racing Association of Oklahoma, said about horse racing in the state. “Prior to the passage of SQ 712, most likely the pari-mutuel industry in Oklahoma would not have survived past 2007. Without exaggeration, I believe 2006 would have been the last year the four racetracks in Oklahoma would have survived.”

Constantin Rieger, executive director of the state Horse Racing Commission, said purses are up, Oklahoma’s quality of horses racing has increased, the number of licensees is higher, and the total amount wagered has grown at Will Rogers Downs in Claremore and Remington Park in Oklahoma City.

“The passage of 712 was huge for the horse racing industry, and I think all indications are whatever folks thought it would do and hoped it would do, I think it’s done,” Rieger said. “I’m sure there was a time and day that people thought Remington would be padlocked. The fact that they’re back from the brink of extinction to be one of the major players, I think that says it all.”

‘The fuel that drives the engine’

The main component that turned around the state’s horse racing industry is the very thing that some thought would destroy it: electronic games.

With the introduction of gaming machines at most of the state’s horse tracks, additional revenues were generated and put toward not only state education, but toward racing purses, facility renovations, the state’s Breeding and Development Fund, as well as other things related to the horse industry.

“Those machines are where they generate the bulk of the breeders’ program money and purse money,” Rieger said. “That’s the fuel that drives the engine.” >>>

By being able to offer better purses, higher-quality horses are brought in to race, which makes people more apt to bet on races, Rieger said.

But it wasn’t always a loving relationship between electronic games and the horse racing industry. Many attribute part of the decline of the sport to the rise of American Indian casinos and a changing entertainment landscape in the state.

All of the tracks in Oklahoma were losing money on live racing, and once tribal casinos began popping up, the bleeding increased, said Ron Shotts, director of racing at Fair Meadows in Tulsa.

“We were all basically surviving by simulcast and that was diminishing over the years,” Shotts said. “With the advent of electronic gaming and Indian casinos, which affected Fair Meadows and Blue Ribbon Downs more than Remington, we saw our numbers decline precipitously.”

Shotts said the tracks still lose money on live racing, but are able to keep their heads above water, thanks to the electronic games and SQ 712.

“If it wasn’t for SQ 712, there wouldn’t be any of the three tracks still open. It’s the only reason we’re still here,” he said. “The gaming has sort of been the destruction of horse racing and the rejuvenation of horse racing.”

Scott Wells, president and general manager of Remington Park, said electronic games appeal to people because they offer instant gratification, whereas horse racing is a little tougher.

“One is more instant gratification and simplistic. And the other is more cerebral and takes a little more time,” Wells said. “(Electronic games are) tremendously popular with people. What they don’t do is provide nearly as many jobs and labor as horse racing.”

Wells said between 3,000 and 4,000 horses will run at Remington this year, and each horse has several jobs attached to it.

Estimates for the number of jobs in the state’s horse industry range between 25,000 and 50,000. The industry likely has a $1 billion economic impact on the state, Rieger said.

Other states that do not have electronic games are having a tougher time maintaining their horse racing industry than those that do, Wells, Rieger and Cassity said.

For instance, Texas is surrounded by states that have gaming, and its horse industry is considered in decline, Rieger said.

“Texas is being squeezed out of the horse industry. It’s hard for the horse industry to stand on its own anymore,” he said. “Texas is in that bad cycle that Oklahoma was in.”

Numbers game

From 2001 to 2005, the net amount wagered at Oklahoma horse racetracks (live racing and simulcast) declined by 37 percent, according to numbers from the Oklahoma state auditor and inspector’s office.

Even after the introduction of electronic games, the net wagered amount at the tracks continued to decrease, falling about 27 percent between 2006 (the first full year that electronic games were available) and 2010, and falling 55 per

cent between 2001 and 2010, according to the state auditor numbers. Looking at the money from off-track wagering, however, there is a big jump in the revenue during 2005 and 2006, followed by a slow drop, with a slight uptick in 2010, arresting the decline seen since 2006 in total combined revenue.

All of that 2010 uptick can be attributed to off-track betting.

The increases in amounts wagered from other locations on races at Remington, Will Rogers and Fair Meadows are directly related to the passage of SQ 712, Cassity said.

Electronic games are tremendously popular. What they don’t do is provide nearly as many jobs and labor as horse racing.—Scott Wells

“Our horse racing is better than four years ago, which is directly tied in to the passage of SQ 712,” he said.

From 2006 to 2010, the total amount of money taken in from electronic games at racetracks increased by 35 percent, according to state auditor numbers.

By 2009, electronic games brought in more money than onsite wagering, the state auditor numbers show, although combined revenue from the tracks and off-track wagering still exceeded gaming revenue.

At Claremore’s Will Rogers Downs, which is run by the Cherokee Nation, the amount generated by horse racing has never exceeded the amount brought in by electronic games, and in 2010, the amount of money from electronic games was nearly fourfold the net amount wagered at the track.

One notable exception is Sallisaw’s Blue Ribbon Downs, which closed in 2010. The Choctaw Nation operated it, although the track is located within the Cherokee Nation’s boundaries. Controversy ensued in 2003 when the Choctaws purchased the track just prior to the Cherokees bidding on it at a sheriff’s auction.

Revenues from the electronic games at Blue Ribbon practically stayed flat from 2006 to 2009, and guest facility revenue severely declined in 2009. After the Choctaws purchased the track, the Cherokee Nation opened a casino in Sallisaw in 2006 just off Interstate 40. Revenues from electronic gaming at Blue Ribbon never peaked above $5 million, and in 2009 the track pulled in a little more than $7 million from horse racing.

After the closure and sale of Blue Ribbon in 2010, only two tracks with electronic games remain: Will Rogers and Remington.

A third horse racing track operates without electronic games: Fair Meadows in Tulsa is operated by the county and has agreements with the three tribes in the area — the Osage, Cherokee and Muscogee (Creek) nations — that allow them to subsidize the track in lieu of having electronic games.

That money given by the tribes to Fair Meadows is the only thing keeping the racetrack in the black, Shotts said.

“That’s still the case,” he said.

“If we didn’t have it, we wouldn’t be racing.”

When the Chickasaw Nation took over ownership of Remington in 2009, it wasted no time in beginning extensive renovations on the racetrack.

The Legislature initially limited Remington to only 650 electronic games, although that was later increased to 750 games. Hours of operation are also limited by law.

Wells would not say whether there are plans to seek an increase in the number of games allowed at the facility, but did say that the recent renovations at the park are just the start of a larger plan to expand attractions.

“We have a master plan that’s just breathtaking,” Wells said. “It’s pretty unusual to turn around a place as fast as this place has been turned around.”

‘Horse country’

Wells and others said they were optimistic about the future of the industry, and for good reason. With the state’s horse breeding industry gaining significant traction, tomorrow holds promise, they said.

“I think the future of horse racing in Oklahoma is extremely bright,” Cassity said. “As far a national landscape, I think the future is bright, but I think racing needs to adopt additional variables to make itself more attractive.”

With American Indian tribes owning two of the three racetracks in the state, it’s likely that those tracks will continue to thrive, given their success in the gaming entertainment industry, Shotts said.

“I don’t know how the prospects for their continuance could be any better,” he said. “Being part of Tulsa County, we won’t go anywhere, as long as our horse racing doesn’t operate at too much of a loss.”

Despite the changing industry, horse racing still holds a special place in a state that began with a big horse race in the Land Run, Wells said.

“Obviously, the entertainment landscape has changed. What hasn’t changed, is when people see really outstanding horses racing for big money, it’s exciting. That connection to horses hasn’t changed,” Wells said. “We’re horse country.”

 | Categories: News |

Proposals that didn’t meet deadline could become amendments.

By Gary Scharrer
AUSTIN — Scores of bills appeared to die late Thursday when they failed to win preliminary approval before a midnight House deadline.

There were no caskets in the Capitol on Friday, however.

That’s because nothing really is dead yet. As long as the budget remains open, revenue generators — such as gaming bills — still have a pulse. School reform and school finance bills didn’t make it before the House bill-passing deadline, but likely will hitch rides as amendments on Senate bills.

“There are no caskets, and there are no coffins. You will not see them until the last day of the session. There are so many vehicles that you can use to bring your bill back up and revive it and give it new life,” said Rep. Ruth Jones McClendon, D-San Antonio.

She’s looking for Senate bills moving through the system on which she can hang her bill calling for an Innocence Commission to study dozens of cases involving Texans incarcerated for crimes they didn’t commit.

“I’m not giving up until the last day,” Jones McClendon said.

The regular legislative session ends May 30. All Senate bills must gain preliminary House approval by midnight May 24.

The biggest bill of the entire session — the two-year state budget — has yet to win final agreement by both chambers.

“As long as the budget is alive, any fiscal measure is still alive,” said Rep. Todd Hunter, R-Corpus Christi, chairman of the influential House Calendars Committee, which determines which bills go to the House floor for debate. “I think gambling is still alive because it’s a revenue measure and, as the budget process is alive, so is any revenue measure.”

A watered-down gambling bill to allow slot machines at racing tracks and Native American reservations moved out of the House Licensing and Administrative Procedures Committee last week.

“There’s not enough interest on the House floor — at the moment,” said Rep. Mike “Tuffy” Hamilton, R-Mauriceville, the committee chairman who moved the gambling bill.

Support for the gambling bill could build later, perhaps in a summer special session, he said, as members look for more nontax revenue. The limited gambling bill could raise about $3 billion, he said.

The two lead budget writers conceded Friday that a special session may be needed to resolve the budget and public education funding and reform.

“I think it’s pretty likely because we’ve got too many issues that are unresolved at this late stage in the session,” Senate Finance Chairman Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, said. “So, I think it’s likely, but I haven’t given up.”

House Appropriations Chairman Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie, agreed.

“I think it could lead that direction,” he said. “That’ll be pretty obvious by about Tuesday of next week.”

Bills to deal with massive budget cuts for public education — up to $8 billion — still are languishing because of insufficient support. Teacher groups and their allies also have managed to stall legislation designed to help school administrators absorb budget cuts with larger class sizes, teacher pay cuts and unpaid leave.

“They’re all under discussion and development,” said House Public Education Chairman Rob Eissler, R-The Woodlands. “Nothing is dead. No one has taken the shovels out of the garage yet.”

Eissler noted the Legislature is designed to kill bills. Typically, only about 20 percent of the 8,000 bills filed each session pass into law.

A gavel slamming down May 30 to end the legislative session is the only time that bills are “dead-dead,” said veteran Rep. Harold Dutton, D-Houston.

Lawmakers now are looking for bills to amend with their own foundering legislation. That can get out of hand, Dutton said.

The so-called “Dutton rule” approved last session by the House requires the House parliamentarian to examine all House bills as they return from the Senate for “nongermane” amendments.

 | Categories: News |


AUSTIN, TX—MAY 13,2011—The Texas Racing Commission on Friday approved a change of ownership of Lone Star Park. The new ownership group is Global Gaming LSP, a Texas limited liability company. Racing Partners of Texas, of which Texan Ricky Knox is the principal, has a 51 percent interest, and Global Gaming Solutions, a company held by the Chickasaw Nation Division of Commerce in Oklahoma, has a 49 percent interest.

Commission Chairman Rolando Pablos said, “The Commission is pleased to have formally considered this application. The members of this body understand like so many others the clear importance of Lone Star Park to the racing industry in Texas and to the City of Grand Prairie. We have been concerned about Lone Star Park and its future.

“The Commission believes the new owners have demonstrated a commitment to the track, to the industry and to Texans,” Pablos continued. “The Commission expects and looks forward to great things from the new owners and for Lone Star Park.”

The Commission’s action brings to a close activity related to the sale of the Class 1 horse race track in Grand Prairie, Texas.

The parent company of the license’s previous owner, Magna Entertainment Corporation, filed for bankruptcy in March 2009. The license was auctioned in October 2009 to Global Gaming, pending the Racing Commission’s approval.

Global Gaming LSP filed the change of ownership application on March 31, 2010. The applicant submitted the forms necessary for the Department of Public Safety to conduct a required background check on the same day.

The Commission notified the applicant that the application was administratively complete in July 2010 and was prepared to make its decision at a November 2010 meeting. However, at that time, the applicant asked that consideration of the ownership change request be removed from the November agenda. The Commission granted the request.

Following the Racing Commission’s approval, Lone Star Park issued the following statement from President and General Manager Drew Shubeck: “We are pleased to announce that the Texas Racing Commission has approved Lone Star Park’s license transfer to Global Gaming LSP, LLC. This approval could not have happened without the hard work and cooperation of many people working for Lone Star Park and the transition team of Global Gaming Solutions.

In Texas, pari-mutuel license transfers are time-consuming and complex, but our goals of fully cooperating with the Texas Racing Commission and a smooth, seamless transition for employees, horsemen and guests were our highest priorities throughout the process.

The next step will be to complete the transaction. On Monday, May 16, representatives from Global Gaming Solutions will finalize closing documents that will officially transfer ownership.

Many people will ask, “What will be different after the ownership change?”, and the short answer will be very little for the first few days and weeks. All employees and managers have been retained and all contracts will be honored, so we will all be rehired without termination. Over the months ahead everyone will start to notice projects that will benefit workers and customers of the Grandstand and Post Time Pavilion plus horsemen will notice building projects on the backside.

As you already know, the management team here at Lone Star Park values its loyal employees and is always ready to listen. It is especially important during times of transition to ask questions and to have open communication with your manager.

We promise straight answers and a bright future ahead as we continue to “Create Winning Experiences.”

 | Categories: News |

By Alex Branch, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

THACKERVILLE, Okla. — It’s easy to forget you’re in Oklahoma at the WinStar World Casino.

Cars, trucks and SUVs with Texas plates fill the parking lot.

Dozens of gray-haired Texans file off a bus with “Dallas Coach” printed on the side, arriving for “Senior Wednesday” and the casino’s free breakfast for elderly patrons.

Most of the casino employees are from Texas, too, commuting from North Texas cities like Sherman.

It’s enough to make Max Davis of Haslet, who drives up Interstate 35 to Oklahoma twice a week, speak bluntly about his home state.

“Texas has got to be the dumbest state in the country,” he said. “Here we are right across the Red River, and everyone is just coming over to spend money. We just decided to miss out on a bonanza.”

Casinos are illegal in Texas. And despite another strong push to let voters decide whether they want casinos and slot machines, the movement within the 2011 Legislature to legalize gambling is on life-support.

A House bill that would have allowed slot machines at Indian reservations and racetracks now appears dead, supporters and opponents agree. A Senate bill that would allow casinos is seriously endangered, but Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, who endorses casinos as a way to generate badly needed revenue, has managed to keep it alive for now.

“There has been a lot of movement in the last few days,” said Jeremy Warren, Ellis’ spokesman. “At this late date it would be difficult, but the stars seem to be aligning to give us a bit of a realistic chance.”

Texans spend about $2.5 billion a year gambling in neighboring states, according to Texans for Economic Development, the group behind the sarcastically titled “Thank You Texas!” website, in which other states — especially Oklahoma and Louisiana — are depicted as thanking Texas for sending money their way.

Opponents say legalized gambling fails to produce the long-term revenue that supporters promise and instead enriches casino operators and stockholders. It leads to crime and bankruptcy and targets people on fixed income and other populations that can least afford to lose money, Texans Against Gambling says.

Proponents argue that since Texans are gambling anyway, it makes no sense to force them a few miles across the border. Not surprisingly, Texans arriving Wednesday at the WinStar were frustrated with Texas’ refusal to change the law.

Robert Cambron of Arlington said he makes about 20 trips a year to casinos in Oklahoma or Louisiana. His wife, who is retired, makes about 40 trips. The Cambrons spent three days at the WinStar last week.

“Isn’t it obvious people want casinos in Texas by how many are going to them in other states?” Cambron said. “I’ve been following the news and how it looked like gambling might have a chance, but now it sounds like they’re going to blow it again.”

The Cambrons aren’t concerned just with raising state revenue. They’d like to help their own budget, too.

“It would save us a lot of driving and a lot of gas if we could just head off to a casino around D-FW,” he said.

WinStar is well aware of the role Texans play in its success. An estimated 95 percent of patrons are from North Texas, except during the holidays, when more people from other states are passing by, spokeswoman Kym Koch said.

The steady crowds have fueled growth at the sprawling complex, which has game rooms themed with statues and fountains from different cities around the world. It is about a half-mile walk from the New York room to the London room.

A Best Western hotel has risen near the casino, as has a business park with a pawnshop and a medical clinic.

The casino’s 3,000-seat Global Event Center draws big-name entertainers like Kid Rock, Jeff Dunham and Nelly. It has a 225-acre golf course and a 395-room attached hotel.

Could slot machines at Texas racetracks compete with that?

“Well, it probably could for my wife because she plays slots,” said Joe Brewer of Sherman, at WinStar with his wife, Ann. “But I like poker, so we’d probably still come here now and then. We’re retired and just looking for something to do.”

Even the Texas Gaming Association opposes permitting slot machines only at racetracks, saying it would allow a monopoly on gambling revenue in Texas. WinStar visitors agreed that luxury casinos are necessary to keep gamblers in state.

“If you’re going to convince people to come spend a few days and a few nights, you need the big casino,” said Milford Griffin, a Dallas retiree. “I’d be happy to stop driving up here, if I had another place like this to go.

“Until then, I’ll be in Oklahoma.”

Read more:

 | Categories: News |

Texas H.O.R.S.E. TODAY
May 11, 2011

Legislative Update

As of today, we have achieved tremendous progress in educating the legislators about the significant agricultural impact of the Texas horse industry on the Texas economy.  Bills which were unanimously supported by Texas H.O.R.S.E. and all licensed Texas racetracks were filed (HJR 111, HB 2111, SB 1118, SJR 33).   Hearings on these bills were conducted before the Committee on Licensing and Administrative Procedures in the Texas House of Representatives, and HJR 111 was subsequently voted out of committee.  YOU have made a HUGE impact with the telephone calls, letters written, and the tremendously successful and “eye opening to the legislators” Horseman’s Day at the Capitol.  There is NO DOUBT in any Austin office that the membership of Texas HORSE organizations will respond to a call for action.  WELL DONE.

You were asked to remind House Licensing and Administrative Procedures Committee members about HB 2111, and boy did you all come through!!!   Although there were renewed efforts, that essential piece of enabling legislation did not get voted out of committee.  In addition, HJR 111 was not filed with the proper paperwork from that Committee to be placed on the agenda for House floor debate.   Legislation to help the Texas horse industry, as is the case with hundreds of other very worthy pieces of legislation, has run out of time to be heard.  This was confirmed by the Committee Chairman in an interview with the Dallas Morning News yesterday. The House Calendar has closed for new bills, and the debates will be shortened on many of those already set.  As of midnight, Monday May 9, 2011, the Texas HORSE effort in the 82nd session of the Texas House of Representatives is effectively over.

Some newspapers have reported an ongoing effort in the Senate. We will continue to monitor that progress, and aid where we can.  We will ask you to assist when the time is right, and you will, as you always do whenever asked.

More importantly, we are focusing upon the very real possibility of a Special Session to be called this summer to solve the state budget.  Texas HORSE will have our bills at the ready, with our signed agreements between all the Tracks, Greyhounds, Horsemen’s Organizations, and Breed Organizations.  We will continue on the base that we have established with our friends, both old and newly made in the legislature, and attempt to place this issue before the voters of the State of Texas where it deserves to be. We are asking you now, during the waiting period, to continue to keep open the lines of communication you have established with your personal representatives and Senators.  In the event that the call is issued for the Special Session, you will have fostered that relationship to the advantage of Texas HORSE.

THANK YOU for your ongoing support for the future of the Texas horse industry.

Please stay tuned for complete and accurate updates on the Texas HORSE website – or Texas HORSE Facebook page.

 | Categories: Uncategorized |

Austin Bureau, Dallas Morning News

AUSTIN — The House will fold its gambling bill — passed by a committee last week — and let the Senate take its chances instead.

Rep. Mike Hamilton, R-Mauriceville, said Monday the measure that his Licensing and Administrative Procedures Committee approved was “messed up,” so it will die before it can be debated by the full House.

His measure would have proposed a constitutional amendment to allow slot machines at racetracks and Indian reservations. It was the first piece of gaming-related legislation to pass through a committee. It did not include a proposal to allow full-fledged casinos

“We will wait on the Senate to pass their bill,” Hamilton said.

Hamilton noted that Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, will carry a bill in the Senate, which has later deadlines for passing bills through committees. When asked about his gambling bill, Ellis said he was negotiating but avoided a definite answer.

“I don’t want to show my hand,” he said.

But Sen. Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock, who chairs the Senate State Affairs Committee, which would handle the issue, has said that no gambling measure has enough support to merit a vote.

A constitutional amendment requires the support of two-thirds in each chamber and a majority of voters in a statewide election.

 | Categories: News |

By James Ridgway Jr.,

The Texas Racing Commission concluded in their 2011 “Current State of Horse and Greyhound Racing” that Texas racetracks experienced another year of decline.

In the five years preceding 2010, TRC reported that attendance dropped 12 percent, money wagered declined 23 percent, live racing dropped from 1,228 in 2005 to 578 in 2009, and available purse revenue across the state decreased.

“The Texas racing industry has declined tremendously relative to neighboring states. Comparing the purse revenue paid to Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse owners in Louisiana with the purse dollars paid to Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse owners in Texas underscores the depth to which Texas has fallen.

“In 2009, Louisiana purses for Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses amounted to $106 million, whereas purses paid to the owners of both major breeds in Texas amounted to $30million. The difference is $76 million,” from TRC’s Industry Advisory Group Report and Recommendations.

New Mexico, Oklahoma and Louisiana have legalized slot machine gambling within their pari-mutuel race facilities. The TRC study purported Texas racetracks are operating at a competitive disadvantage.

At the local level, Pct. 2 Commissioner Craig Doyal said slot machine gaming has not been a subject of overt interest within commissioners’ court in Montgomery County.

“At this point, not having heard pros or cons, I couldn’t say how I would vote (on slot machine gaming). It’s one of those areas, for or against, we haven’t heard much about,” Doyal said. “If Austin opted to allow local options, it would definitely be something I would consider further.”

Doyal said a local option would allow county residents to vote on slot machine gaming as a community.

Andrea Young, president of Sam Houston Race Park, in earlier coverage, said Texans are losing a sizable chuck of taxable-dollars.

“At the tune of 30 percent tax rates on gaming, this is money Texas is losing to neighboring states,” Young said. “Texas is already gaming legally on horse tracks and lottery tickets. Slot machine entertainment on our facilities should be no different.”

Young added that job creation is also a major factor.

“A competitive racing facility attracts horse farms and breeders, veterinarians, groomers, trainers, jockeys, increased feed and fuel sales, and more employment opportunities at the race park itself.”

Others have expressed concern over what else could be attracted to a competitive racing facility.

 | Categories: News |

By Morgan Smith and Ben Philpott, The Texas Tribune

Attention, gamblers. A Texas House committee surprised the casino lobby Friday night when it voted out legislation that would allow video lottery terminals — slot machines — at state racetracks and Indian reservations. The casinos were left behind.

Casino interests wanted any legislation approved by the House Licensing and Administrative Procedures Committee to also allow destination casinos in major cities and on the state’s barrier islands.

Rep. Mike “Tuffy” Hamilton, R-Mauriceville, said he still doesn’t have the 100 votes required in the House to advance the constitutional amendment his committee approved.

Time is short. The legislative session ends on Memorial Day. And next week, a joint House-Senate committee trying to reconcile their two versions of the budget will convene. They’re looking for money, and the gaming interests are hoping this is their chance.

Sen. Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock, has said he won’t move on any gaming bill until and unless the House passes one. With that still in doubt, nothing’s moving in the Senate right now.
The bill approved by the committee includes a constitutional amendment and the legislation putting it into effect if it passes. Those bills, by Rep. Beverly Woolley, R-Houston, would allow VLTs at dog and horse tracks and on reservations and would raise $548.2 million for the next budget.

The Texas Gaming Association, representing the casinos, wasn’t happy with the news. It issued a statement, attributed to Jack Pratt, the group’s chairman, saying it was “deeply disappointed.”

Texas voters overwhelmingly support destination resort casinos over video lottery terminals at racetracks by a margin of more than three to one according to multiple scientific polls. Casinos also create many times more jobs, result in much greater economic investment and create substantially larger tax revenues for state and local governments.

Granting a monopoly for track owners on commercial gaming revenues in our state is just plain wrong and bad public policy. We have long believed that the only way to pass legislation to expand gaming in Texas is a balanced approach that includes destination resort casinos, slots at racetracks and gaming at the State’s Indian reservations.

Its counterparts at the racetracks — an association called Win for Texas — said through spokesman Mike Lavigne that it’s happy to see some action from the Legislature:

We are excited to see the process moving along. Overwhelmingly, Texans want the opportunity to decide this issue at the ballot box. HJR 111, once approved by voters will create a mechanism by which full scale destination resorts will be created in a limited number of sites across Texas without expanding the footprint of gambling.

This is a big step towards creating more than 75,000 new jobs and keeping billions of dollars here in Texas when we need it most.

 | Categories: News |

By Tim Eaton,

Texas came a little closer tonight to expanded gambling, but it doesn’t look like casinos will be on the table.

In a Friday night meeting, a House committee voted out a measure to allow slot machines at racetracks and Indian reservations.

But the House’s Licensing and Administrative Procedures committee — chaired by Rep. Mike “Tuffy” Hamilton, R-Mauriceville — agreed to a joint resolution that strips out full-casino gambling.

“We just didn’t know if we had the votes for it,” Hamilton said.

Hamilton said that some House members indicated that they would consider voting for a bill that would only allow slots at tracks and Indian reservations.

But the House won’t even get to consider the measure unless Hamilton thinks he’s got the votes to pass it. And as of Friday, he said that is close but isn’t quite there.

In March, Hamilton had supported an all-encompassing bill that could have led to seven new Las Vegas-style casinos, slot machines at 13 horse and dog tracks across the state, slots at a few Indian reservations and slots at bingo halls across Texas.

But the measure the committee voted out tonight, House Joint Resolution 111, didn’t include casinos or bingo halls.

Mike Lavigne, a spokesman for Win for Texas, a group that backs slots at tracks, said in a statement: “We are excited to see the process moving along. This is a big step towards creating over 75,000 new jobs and keeping billions of dollars here in Texas when we need it most. Giving Texans the chance to vote on this proposal is the smart thing to do.”

The casino proponents released their own statement from Texas Gaming Association chairman Jack Pratt.

“Granting a monopoly for track owners on commercial gaming revenues in our state is just plain wrong and bad public policy. We have long believed that the only way to pass legislation to expand gaming in Texas is a balanced approach that includes destination resort casinos, slots at racetracks and gaming at the State’s Indian reservations,” Pratt said. “We will continue to work for such legislation and are hopeful that Texans will eventually have a chance to decide whether and how to expand legalized gaming options in our state.”

For expanded gambling in Texas, two-thirds of Legislature must approve an election to change the constitution, and then voters must ultimately vote to authorize it in November.

But before slots could become a reality, the Legislature must also pass enabling legislation — which could be voted on next legislative session or in a special session after November, if Gov. Rick Perry allows it.

It’s worth noting, though, that Perry has been opposed to expanding the footprint of gambling.

The earliest Texans would be able to hear the “ding, ding, ding” of coins on metal would be 2013, Hamilton said.

Even though it appeared the prospect of casino gambling was dead this session, Hamilton hedged his bets.

There’s still a few weeks left in the session, he said. Plus, the Senate still could take up the matter.

 | Categories: News |