Reason #437 why I’m skeptical of the gambling industry

The regulatory agency that oversees horse and dog tracks in Texas is begging for a handout to make it through the end of the fiscal year.

Faced with a 14 percent, nearly $678,000 shortfall, the commission that oversees horse and dog racing in Texas has asked Gov. Rick Perry for a $250,000 emergency grant to finish the fiscal year ending Aug. 31 in the black.

In case that strategy fails, members of the Texas Racing Commission Wednesday signed off on a letter to Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and House Speaker Joe Straus requesting a $250,000 supplemental budget appropriation.

Members acted shortly before representatives of horse and greyhound interests painted a desperate picture of the racing industry’s health at Wednesday’s commission meeting.

“Time is clearly running out,” said Bryan Brown, CEO of the Retama Park, a horse track north of San Antonio. “We can’t continue on as an industry and face all these issues.”

The agency attributes $70,000 of the shortfall to the impact of last year’s hurricanes on track revenues. It blames the rest on a factor likely reflecting decreased betting.


Brown told the commission that from 2007 to 2008, the number of Texans involved in horse racing dropped by more than 1,200 to 3,325. He also noted drop-offs in horses bred and raced in the state, live racing days at tracks and in total revenue. He said tracks also continue losing customers to online alternatives and illegal gambling parlors.

Earlier this week, Rolando Pablos, the commission chairman, told the budget-drafting Senate Finance Committee the racing industry is on the decline.

Remember when the introduction of the horse and dog racing industries, with their legalized betting on races, was going to be a financial windfall for the state? Boy, those were the days. But hey, let ’em have slot machines, or maybe just open the door to casinos, and this time we really will be swimming in the money. For sure! We mean it! What could possibly go wrong?

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