The Philadelphia-area company [Penn National] is, at least, expert at shoehorning electronic gaming into existing race tracks. It has a glowing record of legislative persuasion in states where slots were illegal. The company also develops tracks for electronic gaming success, then operates the gaming well.
“This (50-50 venture) was more a business decision than anything else,” [SHRP CEO Shawn] Hurwitz said. “It demonstrated our fundamental belief that Texas should have and can have the best horse racing.”
He emphasized, “In our new partner, we have an organization with lots of experience in other environments. With authority, Penn National Gaming can tell us, ‘Here’s what worked here, and here’s what worked there. Here’s what people liked, and here’s what people didn’t like.’
“When Penn National looked at us, I think their people started to get very excited about coming into Texas. I think they also see opportunity to have the best in racing here.”
As always, there’s an annoying lack of anything specific. What do they think will work in Texas? I presume at this point it’s a lobbying strategy, since it’s a bit late in the game to try to swing elections. I don’t really expect them to spill their game plan to a reporter, but some clue of the general outline would be nice to know.
Many roadblocks and obstructions lie ahead. One committed foe will be other states’ gambling interests.
“If casinos or tracks near Texas borders have parking lots filled 80 or 90 percent with Texas license plates, you know they will work hard to keep those customers,” Hurwitz said.
The world’s third-largest casino is WinStar. It’s just inside Oklahoma, about 75 miles from the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Casinos and racinos (horse tracks with gaming devices) could collapse without Texas revenue.
“Nevada will also be involved in the resistance,” Hurwitz said. “Texas is second to California in gaming at Nevada casinos.”
I assume we’re now talking about the battle that will come after the legislative victory, which is the battle to get all those Texans who cross into neighboring states for their gambling fix to stay at home and lose their money here. I note this just as a reminder that however much gambling money leaves the state, not all of it will come back. Be careful when reading projections about the size of the potential windfall.