The battle between the Texas Racing Commission and the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority took another turn Monday.
The commission put out a release effectively shutting down pari-mutuel simulcast wagering on Texas races for out-of-state bettors. The release states:
“This policy change allows for the determination of whether the export or import signal invokes the jurisdiction of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority created by the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act of 2020 (“HISA”), which is effective on July 1, 2022.”
The TRC’s stance
The commission believes HISA does not have authority over Texas horse racing. It says it maintains jurisdiction under the Texas Racing Act, which was passed in 1986.
Amy Cook, the TRC’s executive director, said the following in an interview with horseracing.net:
“Our goal is the prevention of regulatory chaos, and the cost will be the loss of revenue in that export signal … but you cannot put a price on certainty.”
The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act was part of the 2021 Consolidated Appropriations Act. HISA is charged with developing rules that cover topics such as doping, medication control, and racetrack safety.
Cook, however, believes the process has been rushed and lacks transparency. She met with HISA’s Lisa Lazarus and described the conversation:
“We told Lisa that there should be a delay in implementation for 18-24 months because it was so unclear what they will do … it is the best decision for my state, and even though I appreciated her coming to visit, Texans deserve clarity from their regulatory agency.”
What does this mean?
In short, the Texas Racing Commission is ending simulcast and advance-deposit wagering on races conducted within the state. Those not in attendance at tracks in the Lone Star State will not be able to put money down at OTB parlors or through ADW providers.
Off-track betting is illegal in Texas. This means those parlors do not exist and ADW providers are not supported. Out-of-state residents, however, can currently gamble on Texas racing through legal means available to them in their areas.
This off-track handle represents a significant portion of handle taken in by Texas’s three main racetracks. Those are Sam Houston Race Park, Lone Star Park, and Retama Park. In 2019, the Texas racing industry reported $285 million in bets on horse and greyhound racing.
Without that money, revenue is extremely likely to plummet. As a result, the state with the most horses in America now has a horse racing industry with an uncertain future.
How is the industry responding?
For the most part, not well. Horsepeople and media members skewered the TRC when news broke Tuesday morning.
This includes Karl Broberg, one of the most notable trainers to maintain a string of thoroughbreds in Texas. In a tweet Tuesday, he said trailers of his horses were already headed to other tracks.
Paulick Report publisher Ray Paulick eulogized Texas racing with a series of tweets of his own. He said:
“Racing thrived without Texas for decades. Texans voted in favor of pari-mutuel wagering in 1987, but Texas politicians have never given horse racing the tools it needs to compete. It’s too bad because it could have been huge and there are so many Texans who believe in the sport.
“I don’t think the Texas Racing Commission understands the chaos it is creating. There will be an exodus of Thoroughbreds and jobs to other states.”
Where do horses (and horsepeople) go from here?
Racing will continue at Lone Star Park, which hosts its summer meet through Sunday, July 24. This means a portion of its meet will take place without support from out-of-state horseplayers.
Nearby states may see an influx of thoroughbreds shipped in by connections seeking more stability. A pair of tracks in Louisiana (Louisiana Downs, in Bossier City, and Evangeline Downs, in Opelousas) are currently running and may be the main beneficiaries.
In addition, Oklahoma’s Remington Park opens its thoroughbred season on Friday, Aug. 19. That track runs through mid-December and frequently attracts horses and connections from the Texas circuit.