02/18/2016 3:31PM

Texas Racing Commission repeals historical racing rules


The Texas Racing Commission on Thursday voted to repeal the rules for historical racing it put in place in August 2014. The vote was 5-4, according to Robert Elrod, a spokesman for the agency. The commissioners that voted against repealing the rules were Robert Schmidt, Ron Ederer, Gary Aber, and Gloria Hicks.

The commission is operating on a temporary funding plan that runs through Feb. 29. But it’s anticipated that Thursday’s vote will lead to the restoration of full funding from the state’s legislative budget board, which in turn would prevent a shutdown of racing in Texas on March 1.

“That’s our expectation,” said Elrod.

As of Thursday afternoon, the commission had not yet received notice of administrative funding past Feb. 29. However, influential state leaders like Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick expressed their satisfaction with the vote Thursday.

“I support today's action by the Texas Racing Commission to repeal its rules for historical racing in Texas,” Patrick said in a release. “As a state district court has ruled, only the Texas legislature can approve any expansion of gambling.

“With this issue now behind us, I look forward to sitting down with responsible members of the horse racing industry to discuss the future of horse racing in Texas.”

The historical racing rules have been a source of controversy since charitable bingo and tribal interests legally challenged them and a judge ruled the commission did not have the jurisdiction to pass rules governing the electronic parimutuel game that plays like a slot machine. Some of the state’s tracks and horsemen’s organizations appealed the decision in court.

Many in the industry feel historical racing will provide the funding Texas tracks need to be competitive with surrounding states that have casinos supplementing purses. Texas has lost ground to those states, and is further crippled by the fact that there is no gaming, offtrack betting, or account wagering allowed in Texas. Historical racing machines have never been operational at tracks in Texas.

Sam Houston Race Park in Houston is conducting a live Thoroughbred meet that runs into March. Lone Star Park near Dallas opens a Thoroughbred meet in April.