Texas Racing Commission defies governor, keeps historical racing

Historical wagering has become the hot-button issue in Texas since the machines were approved there last year, and Tuesday marked the third time that the Texas Racing Commission has take an official vote on the matter. This time, the nine-member commission voted 4-4 on an order to repeal historical racing, with one member abstaining, according to the Star-Telegram.

With the motion failed, new Chairman Rolando Pablos, recently appointed by the expressly anti-gambling Gov. Greg Abbott, told the staff to “begin the process of shutting down the agency.” The end of February marks the termination of the three-month fundingextension granted to the commission last month by the Legislative Budget Board.

Some believe the Commission, and thus the entire Texas racing industry, will not actually shut down at that time, despite claims from some in the legislature that funding will not be extended again. Others are clinging to the hope that the “millions of dollars” the industry has spent on legal fees to defend historical racing in court will come to fruition. But supporters are convinced that these machines are their last hope: “There is no Plan B,” according to Texas Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association president Jan Haynes. “We are at the point where it will take some sort of gaming revenue.”

Read more at the Star-Telegram.

Hours after the racing commission vote, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, co-chair of the Legislative Budget Board and recipient of sizable campaign contributions from the Kickapoo tribe that operates a casino in Texas, issued the following statement:

“I am extremely disappointed that the Texas Racing Commission failed to repeal historical racing. Previously, a state district court judge ruled historical racing rules adopted by the commission exceeded the commission’s authority granted to them by the Texas Legislature. Members of the legislature also expressed their opposition in a letter to the commission stating they did not have the authority to enact this rule.

“It was my hope that today would be the beginning to finding a solution to resolving this issue for the long term benefit of the equine industry in Texas. Instead, irresponsible members of the industry have politicized this issue and resorted to false, personal attacks.

“Recently, the governor appointed three members to the commission. Two of those members voted to repeal historical racing and one did not. In addition, the previous commission chair resigned his chairmanship after he said he could not serve at the pleasure of the governor, staying on the commission but also voting not to repeal. As recently as August, this same member voted to repeal, but today defied the governor.

“It is disturbing that a few members of the Texas Racing Commission who refuse to follow the ruling of the judiciary, the clear guidance of the Texas Legislature or directive from the governor have chosen to jeopardize this industry. I look forward to working with responsible members of the equine industry moving forward.

“As recently reported by the Fort Worth Star Telegram, if horse racing comes to an end in Texas it will be the fault of a few members of the commission and their supporters in the horse industry – not the fault of the governor, the lieutenant governor or the legislature.”