|Video Lottery Terminal Bill Introduced
On March 8, Representative Kino Flores filed House Bill 3326,
which, if passed, would legalize video lottery terminals (VLTs) at horse
and greyhound tracks throughout Texas. This bill is unanimously supported
by all of the members of the industry’s coalition, Texans for Economic
Development (TED). Representative Flores is also the chairman of the committee
where all gambling bills have been referred to for the 80th legislative
session. This is extremely significant – especially given the fact
that he is a friend of the horse racing industry and wants to see all
purses in this state be the best in the country.
Some horsemen may questions parts of the bill, and there are certain
specific elements of the bill that representatives of the Texas Horsemen’s
Partnership would have liked to see handled a little differently, but
it was important for the industry to unite behind one piece of legislation
so that we would have a bill that gives us a chance to get the video lottery
terminals that every state around us already has.
The version of the bill that was filed would give the state a 35 percent
tax rate and set purses by contract between each racetrack, representatives
of the Texas Horsemen’s Partnership, and representatives from each
of the affected breed registries. A considerable amount of work has already
been done by the tracks and various horse groups to set the terms of those
contracts now, even before legislation passes. If contracts cannot be
reached, than any party can refer the matter to the Texas Racing Commission
(TRC) for final determination. The legislation directs the Commission
to set the purse amounts at nationally competitive levels, but in no event
may the Commission allocate less than 6.5 percent to horse purses.
This legislation would allow VLTs at the existing five horse tracks
and three greyhound tracks, in addition to facilities constructed for
the Austin Jockey Club and Saddle Brook Park licenses, along with the
three licenses pending before the Texas Racing Commission should that
agency decide to issue them.
On the same day that our bill was filed, two senators held a press conference
and filed legislation that calls for the creation of 12 stand-alone facilities
with full blown casino games in addition to VLTs at the existing horse
and greyhound racetracks. Senator John Corona and Senator Rodney Ellis
stated that they wanted to see the state benefit from the revenue created
by full casinos in more areas of the state and they did not want to limit
the gaming to a few racetracks. While this type of effort has been opposed
by Governor Perry, Lt. Governor Dewhurst and Speaker of the House Craddick
in the past, these events only help to raise the awareness of our issue
with the members of the legislature and the people of Texas.
Another factor contributing to our legislative effort is the budget.
State legislators began the current session with the forecast of a $14
billion budget surplus. Most of that money had already been allocated
by the time this article was written. The majority of the money was used
to pay for the property tax reduction and promised education spending.
Now legislators are being advised that they could be faced with a budget
shortfall if a federal court mandates that the state pay more money for
child Medicare benefits. This revenue shortfall could provide the incentive
necessary for lawmakers to change prior positions on gaming.
Texans for Economic Development has been working diligently to create
a strong grassroots effort to help pass this legislation. The coordinator
for this project is Jason Haynsworth, and he is responsible for identifying
horsemen in each of the 150 legislative districts to serve as district
chairs. He will immediately begin training those district chairs and equipping
them with the tools necessary to mobilize our support network. We will
need every horseman in this state to call and write their legislators
in support of this legislation. If we are successful in executing this
campaign, then we will be victorious at the end of the session.
As soon as we get information regarding a possible hearing date for
our legislation, we will determine plans for a horsemen’s day at
the capitol and other grassroots activities. Any horseman or supporter
of this legislation should make sure that Jason has a valid e-mail address
for you so that we may get information to everyone on a rapid basis.
We will be using the industry’s website, which is www.keeptexasrunning.com,
to disseminate the most current information about our issue. Don’t
forget you can also use the “Political Action Center” section
of the site to find out who your legislator’s are and to contact
We will also keep our membership up to date on events at the Texas Horsemen’s
Partnership website (www.texashorsemen.com).
Please check these sites often for the latest news and information. The
140-day legislative session will end on Monday, May 28.