File this under “general gambling news”.
Sam Houston Race Park will announce today it has entered into an ownership and operations agreement with racetrack and gaming giant Penn National Gaming Inc. as Texas track owners prepare to push for expanded gaming options from the Texas Legislature next year.
Penn National will acquire a 50 percent interest in the joint venture, which operates Sam Houston, Valley Race Park in Harlingen and a planned racetrack in Laredo. The value of the transaction, which is subject to approval by the Texas Racing Commission, was not disclosed.
Today’s announcement comes as the financially troubled Texas racing industry gears up for a full-scale lobbying effort before the 2011 Legislature to approve slot machines and other gambling options that industry observers say will benefit the racing business and the Texas economy.
“This industry is struggling, and so to have somebody with a national footprint is a great thing for us,” said Shawn Hurwitz, the track’s chief executive officer. “They have tremendous financial resources, which is a great thing from the perspective of our current operations and from an effort to get other gaming passed in the state of Texas, which ultimately is the answer not only for racing but to help Texas in this tough economy.”
The story has a lot of well-known background information on the upcoming legislative fight to expand gambling in Texas, but no new information about how proponents plan to win that fight. The way I see it, this is basically Penn National placing a bet that Texas does in fact expand gambling to include slot machines at racetracks, which obviously they think will be a winner for them. They may or may not have a strategy to facilitate this, and if they do it may or may not be anything more than “give more money to the people that already support our position”, I can’t tell from the story. Like I said, they’re putting their chips on expanded gambling happening next session. Make of that what you will.