February 25, 2016
Eric Mitchell, Blood-Horse

The Texas Racing Commission’s decision to repeal rules it adopted previously to implement historical racing was rewarded Feb. 25 with a total restoration of its operating funds.

The Legislative Budget Board, which has been doling out the commission’s operating funds in 90-day increments since September, authorized full funding for the agency through Aug. 31, 2017.

On Feb. 18 the commission voted 5-4 to repeal the rules it adopted in 2014 that would have allowed pari-mutuel businesses to operate electronic games, called historical racing. The kiosk-style games look like slot machines but use the outcome of previously run horse races to determine the outcome of each play. Because the games are run through a totalizator and the wagering is pool, historical race is considered pari-mutuel in nature by several states.

The commission action on historical racing, however, sparked a political firestorm. Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, and Sen. Jane Nelson, the highest-ranking Republican in the Texas Senate, all accused the commission of circumventing the legislature by attempting to authorize casino-style gambling, which is illegal in Texas.

Patrick, who is co-chair of the Legislative Budget Board, used a special provision included in the two-year state budget approved last year to withhold operating funds from the TRC until it had repealed the historical racing rules.

“As a state district court has ruled, only the Texas legislature can approve any expansion of gambling,” Patrick said in a statement. “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.”