A dispute amongst factions of the Texas GOP will result in a shut-down of Texas horse racing this week. Although, the Texas racing industry has never taken off as envisaged in the 80’s, this internecine dispute will disrupt legal horse racing in Texas. The Texas Racing Commission does not have funding to continue in operation and Texas law requires Racing Commission supervision at all tracks in the state. The Houston Chronicle explains the root cause behind the shut down.
Texas Racing Commission officials have stopped signing off on new races and started warning that the agency will shutter by the end of the month unless the Legislative Budget Board approves a funding request.
“Absent the necessary approvals from the LBB, the agency will no longer be able to pay its employees or its rent and will close by the end of the day on August 31, 2015,” commission executive director Chuck Trout told a lawyer representing the tracks in a letter last Friday, adding that, “if the agency closes, all racing will also stop.”
Commission officials believe the board controlled by lawmakers will ultimately approve the money if they repeal a controversial new racing game, but the warning nevertheless has plunged Harris County’s Sam Houston Race Park and others around the state into unexpected uncertainty. State law requires commission staff to attend each race, so closure could leave the tracks unable to operate.
The tumult marks a dramatic escalation in a year-long battle between the commission and some lawmakers over the new game, known as “historical racing.”
Also known as “instant racing,” the game allows players to bet on previously-run races that have been stripped of identifications. It is seen by the tracks as a necessary innovation to help them to keep up with states where more betting is allowed, but it has drawn opposition from critics who say the terminals resemble slot machines and would expand gambling here while hurting charitable bingo groups.
The commission approved historical racing last summer over the objection of Senate Republicans, who sent a letter saying the agency did not have the authority to make such an authorization unilaterally.
Photo from www.bloodhorse.com