08/29/2014 1:30PM

Texas moves step closer to Instant Racing approval

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An amendment providing for historical racing at Texas tracks passed on a 7-1 vote, with one abstention, during a Friday meeting of the Texas Racing Commission, according to the panel’s spokesperson, Robert Elrod.

Also during the meeting held in Austin, the requested 2015 dates for Lone Star Park near Dallas, Sam Houston Race Park in Houston,  and Retama Park near San Antonio  all received approval from the panel.

Historical racing, better known as Instant Racing, is an electronic parimutuel game that plays like a slot machine. It has helped enhance purses in Arkansas and at some tracks in Kentucky, and since December there has been a concerted, state industry effort to bring historical racing to tracks in Texas.

Texas is unable to supplement its purses with either gaming or account wagering. There also is no off-track betting in the state. Over the last decade, Texas has experienced alarming declines in handle, purses,  and race dates. For example, handle on Texas’s live horse races in 2005 was more than $359 million, a number that fell to $130 million in 2013. During that same period of time, Thoroughbred dates among  the state’s three major tracks fell from 192 to 109.

The Texas Racing Commission began accepting public comment on the prospect of historical racing in July, and received thousands of responses, according to Elrod. August was the earliest a vote on the machines could come up, and had there been no action by Dec. 27, the topic would have died, said Elrod.

As for 2015 dates, Lone Star was granted a 50-date Thoroughbred meet from April 9-July 19. Sam Houston was granted a 32-date Thoroughbred meet from Jan. 16-March 10; and Retama Park is to run Thoroughbreds for 26 dates from Sept. 4-Nov. 28. The tracks were also granted meets for Quarter Horses.