The sport of horse racing is slowly deteriorating in
Texas, it would seem as officials at Retama Park are proposing to scratch
the 2007 Thoroughbred racing season and shift to a winter meet, January through
March of 2008.
The shift would allow Retama Park time to recover money by building its
purse structure through simulcast wagering — which will continue and enable
Retama to attract more horses and offer higher purses, according to track
By running from January – March, when other tracks are shut down, it will
provide the opportunity for more horses to compete in Texas.
The lean times for Texas racing are being blamed on the lack of video gaming,
which supplements racing income in most other states.
Tracks in neighboring Oklahoma, Arkansas, New Mexico and Louisiana offer
slot machines that supplement larger purses and generate a large revenue for
those states and quite a bit of that money is being dropped by gamblers from
Texas. Slot machines are illegal in Texas and many people in the horse racing
and dog racing industries complain that the competition is killing the industry
and will eventually drive them out of Texas or out of business.
We requested Governor Rick Perry’s stance on video lottery terminals and
received this small response. “In regards to video lottery terminals,
the Texas Lottery Commission cannot operate video lottery games without specific
legislative authority. Legislation was introduced during the 2005 regular
session of the legislature that would have authorized the commission to operate
video lottery games and licensed racetracks across the state. However, this
legislation did not pass.”
In 2004 Governor Perry supported the concept of video lottery terminals
at existing tracks within Texas. It seems to this paper that he abandoned
the racing industry very quickly and is now strongly opposed due to staying
in the good graces and deep pockets of social and religious conservatives.
2006 Texas Gubernatorial Candidates Chris Bell, Kinky Friedman and Carol
Keeton Strayhorn are in favor of video lottery terminals, could generate billions
of dollars and allow Texas tracks to compete with neighboring states.
Money generated from video lottery terminals could assist in expanded property
tax cuts, along with a much-needed boost for our public education system.
Public education in Texas is currently funded primarily through local property
taxes and unless the state can increase its share of educational spending,
the burden on local taxpayers will once again all onto the property owners
with increases in property taxes. VLTs at Texas tracks would provide
property tax relief to Texas homeowners.
Ray Perryman, an economist in Waco, Texas analyzed the impact of horse and
greyhound racing on business activity in Texas. It was projected that
video gaming would produce $1.5-billion per year would go to state revenue…almost
a 90% net increase.
Perryman’s summation was that with aggregate annual benefits of $10.8-billion
in spending, $4.9-billing in output, and more than 77,000 permanent jobs,
it is quite clear that allowing VLTs to operate at Texas tracks brings benefits
across the broad spectrum of measures while meeting demands of Texas consumers
for specific entertainment opportunities and providing almost $1.5-billion
in yearly state revenue. In addition, VLTs would bring jobs, industry, and
dollars back to Texas such as additional hotels and restaurants surrounding
the track areas.
Retama isn’t the only track to experience lower numbers resulting in small
purses, Lone Star Park and Sam Houston tracks have also experienced sharp
declines in attendance and wager totals over the past five years, according
to track officials. Since 2000, total Thoroughbred purses per year at Texas’
three tracks have declined 17.9% to $25,113,231. That percentage represents
a drop of more than $5.4-million. The number of Thoroughbred races at the
three tracks is down 13.3% to 1,779 and, despite a reduction in the number
of races, average race purses are down 5.4% to $14,116.
Many Texas breeders are selling out, downsizing or opening operations in
other states because they’re losing business. Stoneview Farm owner Sue
Dowling’s stallions would breed 100 mares a year – that number has decreased
considerably. The 600-acre farm was home to her family’s 30-45 mares
and another 50-60 boarded for clients. As state after state around Texas
approved alternative gaming, those numbers dwindled. Dowling’s three
stallions covered fewer than 20 mares this season. Dowling has cut
her broodmares down and she now keeps six in Kentucky to take advantage of
that state’s breeders’ incentive program.
This paper supports the Texas Horse Industry; we hope you choose your candidates
carefully this month. Without the support of our Texas lawmakers the
Texas racing industry may fall by the wayside.