Texas tracks to close August 31 over ‘slots’

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‘Historical race’ machines, a bone of contention in budget hassle

Austin – Busloads of breeders, trainers, jocks and owners plan on flooding a hearing room here on August 25 to try to change the expected closure of horse racing tracks on September 1.

It’s a budget hassle that would defund the Texas Racing Commission, and the Legislative Budget Board is expected to make a ruling.

Critics say it’s just a way for legislators to continue to get big campaign contributions from out-of-state casino operators in Oklahoma, Louisiana and New Mexico. Proponents are understandably protective of the state’s status of not allowing casino gambling – kinda sorta, play-like.

It’s all about the bucks – billions of them, according to proponents of “historical racing machines,” an electronic spin and win system resembling an 8-liner in which bettors at horse tracks could wager on races previously run, depicted on the electronic screens in a way that renders the horses and races unidentifiable, but otherwise viable as a win, place and show events in which real money changes hands.

Players are picking mounts from “Racing Form” information published on-screen in which the mounts and events have been made anonymous. They place their bet on a parimutuel basis on races that have been previously run.

That’s a little too much like slot machines, according to the Chairwoman of the Texas Senate Finance Committee, Jane Nelson, of Flower Mound.

She’s holding hostage the $750,000 it takes to staff and operate the racing commission – money that is raised from track fees paid by those who enter their steeds in racing events statewide.

If the historical racing machines were put into operation, there would be similar revenue raised from their operation. Each race run on a historical racing machine is actually a parimutuel event, charged user fees in identical fashion as a real race.

Nelson’s very vocal critics say she’s doing a reprise of Governor Rick Perry’s move to veto the funding legislation that staffed and operated the state’s public integrity unit at the Travis County District Attorney’s Office when DA Rosemary Lembergh refused to resign following her arrest for DWI. The affair ended in his indictment.

At present, no one knows just how much leaves the state daily with gamblers headed for other states to play – about 85 percent of them on slots – but the state would lose the $5.5 billion gross revenue spent on horse racing as well as trackside, clubhouse wagering on simulcast racing events at other tracks nationwide as tracks close on August 31.

Experts estimate about $1.5 billion in illegal, untaxed and unregulated revenue is played in “eight-liner” parlors statewide yearly. Players, most of them disabled or retired, are paid for games they win on the electronic machines in cash by attendants who keep a sharp look-out for the cops.

The state’s one Indian casino, the Kickapoo Traditional Tribe’s rural operation in Maverick County, located on the banks of the Rio Grande near Eagle Pass, has an estimated 120,000 visitors per week, most of them from within 100 miles of the location. The tribe picks up half the cost of housing, pays for medical and prescription visits and the schooling of their kids from the proceeds, which have doubled over the past year. They’re building a much-needed hotel to handle overnight guests. All that translates to jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs for an impoverished Native American tribe.

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Follow the Money noted the Chickasaw and Choctaw Nations as top contributors to Jane Nelson’s campaigns

Senator Nelson was named “the worst” legislator in 2011 by “Texas Monthly” because of her endless hassling in subcommittee hearings over medical benefits paid for the indigent and disabled. The magazine scribe wrote of her antics, “There is a knowledge gap, which—given the will—is perhaps correctable, but there is also a compassion gap, which is perhaps not…”

Comprehensive campaign finance records may be obtained from the Texas Ethics Commission. 

There are dark whispers and much muttering among sportsmen that out of state casino operators have made contributions to her efforts, numbering in six figures. Those who are looking to contribute to the political dialogue are urged to contact this website:

http://savetexashorses.com/?vvsrc=%2fCampaigns%2f42296%2fRespond

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Senator Jane Nelson – legendary budgetary guardian

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