06/11/2014 6:26PM

Texas commission to seek public comment on historical racing terminals

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The Texas Racing Commission plans to seek public comment on whether to authorize the use of historical racing terminals at the state’s tracks in response to a recent request from Texas industry leaders. The pari-mutuel machines that play like slots are similar to the Instant Racing terminals in use at tracks in Arkansas and Kentucky.

The commission on Tuesday voted 7-1 to publish proposed amendments to its rules that would allow for the terminals. The move was made to open a conversation on the topic, giving commissioners a feel for where the public stands on the use of such terminals, according to Robert Elrod, public information officer for the Texas Racing Commission. He said the comment period is expected to be open from June 27 through July 27.

The racing industry in Texas has steadily been losing ground to neighboring states that have purses supplemented by gaming. Texas does not have gaming, nor does it permit off-track betting in any form, including account wagering.

The Texas Racing Commission’s decision to open public comment on the potential installation of historical racing terminals is in response to a May 27 letter it received that was signed by most all of the racing and breeding organizations in Texas, including representatives of the greyhound industry.

“Since we’re charged with regulating pari-mutuel wagering, we have an obligation to listen to and consider any ideas the industry brings us,” Elrod said. “We’re not going to rush into anything. We want to hear concerns on both sides of the issue before making a decision.”

The earliest a vote on allowing historical racing machines could come before the commission is August, according to Elrod. If there is no action on the topic by Dec. 27, it dies. It is not believed legislative approval would be needed to install historical racing machines in Texas.

• Also at Tuesday’s meeting, Saddle Brook Park, a yet-to-be constructed track in Amarillo, proposed a rule change that would allow for the granting of a two-year extension of a temporary license, Elrod said. The commission voted to publish the rule for public comment. Saddle Brook in August 2012 received approval to begin simulcasting at a temporary site in the same county where the track is to be located for up to two years prior to opening. The pre-opening simulcast phase currently runs through Oct. 14.