A race at Lone Star Park.
A race at Lone Star Park.

Texas Horse Racing Will Continue, At Least For Three More Months

Yesterday, Texas race tracks reopened their doors after the Legislature decided to give the Texas Racing Commission some funding. Previously, the commission faced a temporary shutdown when the Legislature withheld the money.

But this is no grand bargain. The Legislature has only granted the commission funding for three months, meaning the future of horse racing in Texas still remains largely uncertain.

"We are glad to see our ability to operate our business restored," Sam Houston Race Park President Andrea Young said in a statement. "However, we remain extremely concerned with both the process and the extremely short period of funding. Like any business, we need to be able to plan farther out than three months."

The Racing Commission saw its funding denied after it chose to uphold "historical racing" rules for a new type of simulcast video horse racing gambling—which many in the Texas Legislature openly decried. Some lawmakers insisted that the commission, in approving these rules without their approval, was flouting the Legislature's authority. Many in the Lege argued that lawmakers, not racing commissioners, have the authority  to approve new types of gambling in Texas. As a result,  folks in the horse racing industry had speculated that, if the commission didn't repeal the historical racing rules during an August 25 vote, the Legislative Budget Board would withhold funding. 

So last week, the racing commission voted to uphold historical racing at Texas tracks. And so earlier this week lawmakers withheld the funding that keeps the commission and the tracks open.

Following the commission's brief shutdown, Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound) said in a statement, "Last week's actions were disappointing, and we cannot look the other way when an agency exceeds its authority, defies the Constitution and picks fights with the Legislature."

The racing schedule resumed as usual yesterday and will continue that way through November. *And despite the controversy that ultimately led to the temporary shutdown, the commission still sent out notice to tracks such as Sam Houston that the races can remain open.

*Correction 5:55 p.m.: In its notice to parks, the Texas Racing Commission did not tell horse racing parks that they could install historical racing, only that they could resume live racing. The Houston Press regrets the error. 

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