Early financial numbers are in on the battle between the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority and the Texas Racing Commission. Those numbers paint a very scary picture for horse racing in the Lone Star State.
Earlier this year, the TRC refused to recognize HISA’s authority, which went into place nationwide on Friday, July 1. Lone Star Park has raced six days since then, and handle has dropped by more than 87 percent compared to a similar stretch in July of 2021.
How and why did this happen?
The battle between HISA and the TRC has raged for most of the year. The TRC insists HISA oversight is unnecessary and would interfere with operations, ones the commission has overseen for more than 100 years.
TRC executive director Amy Cook pushed for a delay in HISA’s rollout, citing a lack of transparency. In doing so, she admitted a loss of revenue was a formality, but said that there was a bigger goal in mind.
“Our goal is the prevention of regulatory chaos,” she said. “The cost will be the loss of revenue in that export signal … but you cannot put a price on certainty.”
Neither side budged, and effective July 1, Lone Star Park’s signal could not be exported to other racetracks and wagering providers outside Texas. With off-track betting illegal in the state, Lone Star Park’s handle now entirely comes from those who attend horse racing venues in-person.
Just how bad is it?
Analysis from Horse Racing Nation illustrates the steep decline in detail. HRN’s Ed DeRosa reports:
“Lone Star handled $12,962,709 through six days of racing July 3-10, 2021, and only $1,654,449 through six days of racing in July 2022. The Grand Prairie, Texas, track went from generating 5.6 percent of U.S. handle in 2021 to only 0.6 percent of it in 2022. This means $1 of every $20 that was bet on all U.S. Thoroughbred racing in 2021 is now being wagered at a different track in 2022 now that Lone Star is unavailable.”
DeRosa added that multi-race exotic pools, in particular, are drying up at an alarming rate. During that stretch a season ago, bets like daily doubles, Pick Threes, and Pick Fours made up nearly 16 percent of total handle. This season, that number is down to just over five percent.
What does this mean for Texas horse racing?
Tracks across the country get a percentage of each bet that’s placed on their races. This is called takeout, and it helps fund their day-to-day operations. This includes purse money for races run at those venues.
Time will tell just how much of an effect this decision will have. Lone Star Park’s thoroughbred racing meet ends on Sunday, July 24. Shortly thereafter, action moves north to Oklahoma’s Remington Park for their meet, which concludes on Saturday, Dec. 17. It returns to Texas for Sam Houston Race Park’s winter-spring meet, which traditionally kicks off in January.
Remington’s meet provides a several-month buffer for HISA and the TRC to come to the table and hash out an agreement. Should they do that, it’s possible handle numbers on Texas horse racing rebound. An inability to do so, however, could mean continued financial disarray for the Texas horse racing industry.