|ATB Fund Suffers Legislative Reductions
When the 78th session of the Texas Legislature came to an end
on June 2, 2003, it was discovered that one of the bills that passed has
an adverse effect on the pari-mutuel industry. The appropriations bill,
which governs how the state spends its money, was changed to place a cap
on the amount of money that can be paid out in the form of Accredited
Texas Bred (ATB) awards.
The effect on the horse industry will be a reduction in ATB money of
approximately 11% according to sources at the Texas Racing Commission.
The cap will be about $10.8 million for the biennium, or $5.4 million
per year. Based on actual numbers for this year, the fund is expected
to generate about $6.1 million, which under the new law will result in
a loss of over $700,000. Any excess money generated will now go to the
state’s general revenue fund.
This reduction comes at time when the Texas breeding program is already
suffering setbacks due to increases in Louisiana’s incentive program
and rising purse structures. Competition from states like Louisiana and
New Mexico, which both have video lottery revenue enhancing the purse
accounts, is already causing some horsemen to move their operations over
the border. The Texas breed registries, which are responsible for the
Accredited Bred Program and oversee its operation, were surprised by this
action and are still accessing the overall effects of this legislation
along with weighing their options.
The Texas Horsemen’s Partnership is still vigorously pursuing opportunities
to pass legislation that will allow Texas tracks to install and operate
video lottery terminals. It looks like the best chance might be in a special
session that could be called to deal with school finance reform. This
special session, if called by the Governor, is expected to occur in the
fall. The THP, along with the Texas Racing Agri-industry Council (TRAC),
will be ready if an opportunity is presented.