BRYAN - In 1987, Texas voters approved a referendum legalizing pari-mutuel betting, and once tracks were built the Texas race horse industry really took off. It didn’t take neighboring states, particularly Louisiana and Oklahoma, long to put competitive incentives in place to try and move horse breeders to their respective states. Those state legislatures, as well as revenue from gaming devices at their tracks, increased purses significantly for breeders and owners on races that only horses bred in their states could run in.
Without anything to fund larger purses in Texas, the racing industry began to decline, and the Texas Racing Commission is trying to address that. Jerry Windham is a past president of the American Quarter Horse Association.
“In the state of Texas we were the leading producers of horses in the country, and we didn’t protect that. There has been a reduction in Texas bred foals by approximately sixty per cent since the year 2000.”
And that, Windham says, has led to job losses.
“At one time there were said to be up to 90,000 jobs related to the horse industry in Texas, but that’s down somewhere below 50,000 now.”
The racing industry has been frustrated by the Texas Legislature.
“They will provide incentives for anybody that’s going to have 1500 jobs in the state of Texas. They’ll give them all kind of tax breaks, but they’ve just ignored an industry of fifty to ninety thousand jobs.”
Windham says that for the last six or eight Texas Legislative sessions, money has poured in from neighboring states to oppose putting a referendum on the ballot for increased gaming at race tracks.
“Because they know once that happens, Texas would take the leadership position. The racing industry in Texas has never proposed that we put any kind of slot machines anywhere except at the race tracks at existing facilities.”
The Texas Racing Commission has proposed to approve historical racing terminals at race tracks.
“They would be used as a form of alternative gaming that would support the industry. It’s very important that this pass. The Racing commission approved it on Tuesday of this week. It will go to public comment and in August it will be approved or disapproved by the Racing Commission.”