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.