Thursday, July 26, 2007

Filling a Purse with Loose Change

A few weeks ago, the most fashionable woman ever to sit atop a horse, Mrs. Dallas Keen, asked, "What's wrong with the collective of politicians in Austin who so lovingly refer to themselves as the Texas Legislature that they cannot pass any kind of bill resembling slot machine installation that would in turn, boost revenue for purses at Texas racetracks and would potentially be beneficial to Texas horsemen?" Or something to that effect.

Problems did not lie with the Texas Legislature as much as it did with the gambling proponents. Each association, whether it be Thoroughbred, Quarter Horse, Paint, Clydesdales or miniature ponies, wanted a bill that would meet their individual group’s specific needs. Toss is the BIG DESTINATION CASINO lobby and one could see there lacked a clear, uniform coalition in obtaining slots. This diversification led to Rep. Ismael "Kino" Flores, who apparently decided to go by the name Kino in an unsuccessful bid to land a recurring role in Hawaii Five-O as Danno’s trusty sidekick, introduced roughly 16,763 gambling bills to the Legislature that never made it to committee and instead were converted into craft projects, paper airplanes, and disposable placemats at the nearby Hook ‘Em Horns Daycare.

The Texas Legislature wrapped up its session back in May and will not convene again until 2009. State representatives have headed home to their respective districts where they can relax with the libation of choice and wait for the Cowboys’ season to begin. And if they have a burning desire to sit in a slots parlor and gamble, they will do what other Texans do: Drive to Louisiana or Oklahoma.

Upon the demise of all gambling legislation, the Texas Thoroughbred Association has apparently decided to go on a scavenger hunt for increased revenue for purses. Mark Cornett, First VP of the TTA, who is also President and CEO of Turf Express Inc., and to the best of my knowledge, has never been quail hunting with Dick Cheney, is spending some serious time perusing the Texas Racing Act as well as every rule, regulation, recipe, and amorphous concoction that is associated with the Texas Racing Commission. And, according to the TTA, he discovered a couple of promising revenue sources:

    1. Open a simulcast facility. Saddlebrook Park in Amarillo, which is far, far, far away from Dallas/Fort Worth, is scheduled to be opened by 2011. A simulcast facility can be opened by 2009 and revenue generated by this simulcast facility far, far, far away, can be used to increase purses at other facilities such as Retama Park.

    2. Develop a county fair circuit. One of my favorite horse-owner-former-CPA-who-lives-with-a-redhead-somewhere-in-California friend loves the county fair circuit and I remember one particular e-conversation when he remarked that he would like to go to the Gillespie County Fair, which is not so far, far, far away. Actually, pari-mutuel racing takes place at the Gillespie County Fairgrounds on some weekends. According to recent figures gleaned from the Daily Racing Form, Gillespie County averaged a daily attendance 1405 and a handle of $134,530 over four dates in July, and all four race dates had a full 12 race card. Okay, okay … it’s not Saratoga but it’s not exactly Wyoming Downs either.

The millions of dollars generated by video slots that horsemen, and horsewomen if you are Mrs. Keen, had hoped for is not happening, at least for now. But at least there is an individual or two out there who is scraping up some loose change that might be available to add to purses.


Anonymous said...

I second this post! When will the Texas Leisure(slature) get with the program?
I know we'all are in the Bible Belt and all but….
They gave us Horse Racing, Lotto and no Personal State Income Tax yet! (give them time).
All we hear is grief of how we need Toll roads to pay for all these new roads that are needed for the growing Texas population.
How bout some “Slots” to pay for the roads?
Pay for roads and pay for a bunch of good ol’ boy stuff.
Check out
This is from Jan. 28 2006 by Paul Cannon "Titled The Financial Benefits of Legalizing Gambling in Texas."
It has some $$$$ statements in it that our Texas Leisure(slature)may find notable. Thanks for letting me on the box Sue!!

Joe said...

Why would we hope the Texas Legislature would help?

Since Gov. Perry took office, Austin shown it doesn't care about the Horse Racing Industry...

Gov. Perry appointed his first new Commissioner to the Texas Racing Commission since he's has been office on July 19th.

State the Horse Racing in Texas should any of these Comissioners keep their jobs??

Texas Racing Commission is where horsemen/players focus the change first.

As for the new Commissioner, another Central Texas Commissioner??

Not good for Lone Star... David G. Cabrales remains only voice for North Texas..

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
t said...

yeah, the fair circuit might be an option for Texans that are wary of stand alone otbs. More gellispe style venues that offer racing 4 or 5 days per year with a year round similcast operation could help. distribution of the signal within texas is a real problem given no online wagering and no otbs. are the state legislators dumb or do they just want racing to fail?

Anonymous said...

People in Texas as a generality do not know a thing about horse racing. If they were that interested, Gary West would be on page 1C instead of page 11C. When I ask people at my place of work if they've been to the track lately, they immediately think of the Texas Motor Speedway. One person asked if the horse track was the same one over by the TGI Fridays in Wautaga.

Once horse racing enthusiasts come down off their mounts to recognize the entire subpopulation of people who do not know horse racing exists, they can build a respectable political base and let their state representatives know what they would like. Until then, Texas representatives are doing what the majority of their constituents ask of them, and it's not "Please put a casino in my backyard next to the liquor store and gentleman's club."

suebroux said...

Although politicians receive money from Texas horsemen and racetracks, I assure that they receive bigger contributions from neighboring states. The original excitement generated since the Texas Legislature legalized pari-mutuel wagering has been foundering since there is clearly no support in Austin. It's no secret that in the past 10 years, the number of Texas foals has decreased by more than 30%. And the Texas Racing Commission has its own problems of ineptitude and incompetence; Gary West gave that a glaring display in yesterday's column in the Star-Telegram.

And as for representatives doing the bidding of constituents, that's a toss-up. Legislation introduced during the 2005 legislative session that would have allowed the operation of VLTs at licensed tracks did not pass. And I believe that there was a very strong opposition lobby in place at the time. This past session, the bills that were introduced were to allow people to vote on whether or not VLTs can operate at tracks, basically getting politicians off the hook.

suebroux said...

And one more thing ...

This is not just a "slots" issue. It should be noted that account wagering via the internet or phone bets and OTBs are illegal in Texas. So if I wish to place a small wager on Movement who is running today in the 10th race at Santa Rosa Fairgrounds because she's Brad's filly and that's my little way of showing support, I have to drive to Lone Star Park or Sam Houston Racetrack or Gulf Greyhound Park in order to place my wager.

In the meantime, I can walk over to Handsome Hank's, buy some overpriced beer and hundreds of dollars worth of scratch-off tickets or jackpot lottery tickets. Easy.

Anonymous said...

"Hansome Hanks" is a poor analogy - those Grapevine gas stations stopped selling Lotto tickets last year as a protest - I should know :)