Racing Commission Votes to Keep Historical Racing

Austin American-Statesman:

Racing commission votes to keep historical racing, risks own funding

The commissioners showed that they wanted to give some hope to the struggling racing business in Texas by not repealing a controversial rule they made last year to allow Texas tracks to take part in historical racing, an electronic form of gambling in which bettors wager on already-run races that have been stripped of all identifiers.

The move is likely to anger Sen. Jane Nelson, a Flower Mound Republican and chair of the powerful Senate Finance Committee, and other Republican legislators who have equated historical racing terminals to slot machines.

The immediate results could be severe. The commission might lose its funding next week and racing in Texas consequently could be halted.

Andrea Young, president of the Sam Houston Race Park in Houston, said a vote the other way would have been “anti-Texan” and “anti-horse racing,” but now, at least, the industry can go forward with court hearings on the legality of historical racing.

The new form of betting offers the floundering horse and dog racing industries in Texas hope for survival, Young and other said at the hearing. It would inject needed capital into the system and allow purses for winning animals to grow and be more competitive with those in surrounded states that can supplement winnings with proceeds from other types of gambling, she said.

“We are proud of the commission’s willingness to stand by the Texas horse and racing industries,” Young said. “We look forward to having our day in court on historical racing, and are confident that the Court of Appeals will uphold the validity of these essential rules. We continue to have hope that the historic Texas horse and racing industry can thrive in Texas, continuing to employ thousands of hard-working people and contributing millions in revenue to the Texas economy.”