02/25/2009 12:00AM

Bill in Texas pushes slots


Two Texas legislators have introduced a bill that will ask voters to approve up to 12 free-standing casinos in the state and allow racetracks to operate slot machines.

While racing interests have been lobbying for several years to add slot machines to the state's racetracks, the bill is being greeted with trepidation by the racing industry because it "creates a widely disparate tax rate between casinos and tracks [and] does not allow the tracks to have the same games as casinos," according to a statement released by Tommy Azopardi, the director of Texans for Economic Development, a lobbying group formed by Texas horse interests to push for slot machines at tracks.

The state's equine industry has banded together to support a separate bill calling for a constitutional amendment that would limit slot machines to racetracks, but the bill has yet to be introduced. David Hooper, the executive director of the Texas Thoroughbred Association, said that he expects the bill to be introduced in both the state house and senate as early as next week.

In the meantime, the racing industry is "taking a hands-off approach" to the casino bill filed on Tuesday, Hooper said.

"We're waiting to see what the legislature will do," Hooper said.

The casino bill introduced Tuesday would need approval from two-thirds of the legislators in each house. The constitutional amendment would need to be passed by a simple majority.