After receiving preliminary approval from the Texas Racing Commission to permit out-of-state wagering, Lone Star Park in Arlington has decided, for the time being, not to export its signal to other states during the 2023 season.
The commission approved Lone Star to export its signal around the country, according to Matt Vance, executive vice president of Lone Star.
However, to avoid any chance of interference with their broadcast this year, Lone Star decided to file a temporary restraining order (TRO) with the federal district court in Amarillo. The restraining order aimed to ensure that the federal law creating the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority (HISA) would not be enforced.
The court ruled against Lone Star, and the track decided not to export its signal at the risk of having it canceled during races.
Lone Star Park at Grand Prairie is a Texas horse racing track and entertainment attraction that features two racing seasons annually.
Texas has three other locations with scheduled race dates:
- Gillespie County Fair
- Retama Park
- Sam Houston Race Park
Lone Star ruling transferred before being denied
Lone Star track owner Global Gaming Solutions LLC, a division of the Chickasaw Nation, filed the TRO on April 6 with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, Amarillo Division. However, Judge Matthew J. Kacsmaryk ordered the case transferred to the Lubbock Division where a prior HISA lawsuit had been filed in 2022.
Lubbock District Judge James Wesley Hendrix denied Global Gaming’s request for a TRO on April 11 just two days before the start of the 2023 season.
Hendrix denied the TRO for several reasons. In his ruling he cited that the plaintiffs have “not shown a substantial likelihood of success on the merits” of their lawsuit and that they have “not established irreparable harm” stemming from HISA oversight of Texas racetracks.
Hendrix’s ongoing judicial involvement with HISA
Hendrix had previously ruled against the National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association and affiliated state HBPAs in a suit brought against HISA that challenged the Association’s constitutionality. However, his ruling was overturned by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which found that the ruling was unconstitutional due to insufficient Federal Trade Commission oversight of HISA.
In response, the U.S. Congress passed further legislation amending the act that created HISA, and the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals found HISA constitutional in light of the amendment. After their ruling, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which presides over Texas, declined to comment on the amendment to HISA, and, instead, sent the ruling back to Hendrix in federal district court for further adjudication.
Hendrix has promised to rule swiftly on the larger issue of HISA’s constitutionality once all of the interested parties have submitted their briefs. Until then, he seems unwilling to agree to TRO’s, like the one filed by Global Gaming and Lone Star, that would allow for the export of their racing signals.
Lone Star Park 2023 Thoroughbred racing season
The cancelation of Lone Star’s out-of-state signal will absolutely affect racing handle for the park, but a 2019 Texas law that taxes feed, tack and other equine products provides a safety net for race purses in this situation. As such, Lone Star is hoping for a solid year. 21 stakes worth $2.6 million and purses projected to average $260,000 per program are up for grabs.
The meet which runs through July 4 boasts a host of events like:
- $1.2 million Lone Star Million Day card of six stakes on May 29
- Grade 3, $400,000 Steve Sexton Mile
- $300,000 Texas Derby
The Summer Turf Festival program scheduled for June 24 will offer four stakes amounting to $750,000. Starting the program will be the $300,000 Texas Turf Classic.
The Stars of Texas Day card contains a pair of $150,000 divisions of the Texas Thoroughbred Association Futurity. Eligible for this race will be a $300,000 daughter of Tapwrit, the sales-topper at the recent Texas auction of 2-year-olds at Lone Star.
Kicking off the meet is the $75,000 Bluebonnet – a 6 ½ furlong sprint for fillies and mares reared in Texas that leads a nine-race opening night card.
Heavenly Rhythm will be there to defend her title against Ima Discreet Lady and Lady Ave. The contenders finished one-two last out in the Yellow Rose of Texas at Sam Houston.
HISA controversy hurts all Texas horse racing
A sore point arose last year when the Texas Racing Commission and the newly-formed federal regulator, HISA disagreed on how best to regulate Texas horse racing.
Signed into law in 2020, HISA was created by Congress to establish and enforce, under the oversight of the Federal Trade Commission, a national uniform set of rules applicable to every Thoroughbred racing participant.
HISA also has the authority to regulate signals to other states for advance deposit wagering.
While HISA made deals with individual horse-racing states to establish federal oversight, Texas refused to play ball. The TRC argued that the 1986 Texas Racing Act, barred outside bodies from regulating Texas horse racing.
The subsequent standoff resulted in the TRC’s decision to halt the export of its racing signal to avoid HISA oversight. This act of defiance by the TRC cost Texas millions in lost out-of-state wagers.
For instance, in July 2022, a week after HISA was formed and TRC decided to stop exporting racing signals, Lone Star saw its handle nosedive more than 85% from the same on-week period in 2021.
Employees, racers, and the larger Texas racing industry were all negatively impacted by the drop in revenue. Still, the TRC remained hard-nosed about exporting racing signals to other states.
Sam Houston reneges on exporting signal
TRC’s decision to cut the gambling signal caused Sam Houston, another major horse racing destination in Texas, to suffer similar financial devastation.
In 2022, on opening day, the race track brought in a record-breaking $3.3 million in handle. A year later, that handle fell to $133,000, a 96% drop.
It appeared the commission realized its blunder when it issued an announcement stating that:
“Effective February 1, 2023, all requests from Texas race tracks associations to export wagering signals will only be considered in a manner consistent with Texas law.”
This prompted Sam Houston Race Park to issue its statement two hours later, saying that they would begin sporting signals to all locations, effective Feb. 3, 2023.
Yet, less than 44 hours later, before the start of races on Feb. 3, SHRP overturned its decision to export its signal, citing compliance issues with HISA.
It appears that Lone Star Park has made a similar flip-flop, and both tracks will now wait for their day in court to address HISA’s constitutionality once again.