Texas Racetrack Owners Want Slot Machine Type Terminals on Their Grounds
Racetrack owners across Texas are hoping to get the approval of state regulators to include racing terminals at their venues. So-called “racing terminals” have an appearance not unlike slot machines. Inside them, previous races are shown, though the races have enough visual clues removed that the betters cannot know which race it was.
This allows gambling on prerecorded races at any time, with greater frequency of betting. The U.S. horse tracks which offer such betting are at a distinct advantage in the competition for more customers. This means they can pay bigger purses, which draws better horses and a bigger turnout.
The horsetrack owners see the “historical racing terminals” as a way to boost their struggling businesses. Slot machines are banned at racing venues in the state of Texas. Opponents of the new law say the racing terminals are slot machines with a race-themed window dressing.
Texas Statutes Do Not Ban It
Proponents of the racing terminal laws says that Texas statutes do not prohibit gambling other than pari-mutuel wagers at live horse races. The racing terminals offer video feeds of previous horse races. These races are held at dozens of racetracks around the country. These feeds are stripped of identifying information which might aid a bettor in knowing which race is being replayed.
Texas Racing Commission Approval Needed
Track management believes it would not need the Texas legislature to approve such innovations. They believe the approval of the Texas Racing Commission would be enough. On Tuesday, the Texas Racing Commission will consider the matter. A spokesman for the Commission, Robert Elrod, said the panel will make no decision on Tuesday. The earliest a decision could be made is August.
Anti-Gambling Groups Lobbying Austin
An advocacy group named Stop Predatory Gambling, Texas have contacted the commission, challenging its jurisdiction and saying it cannot consider changes to the law.
Why Historical Racing Terminals Might Not Fit
Historical racing terminals are not considered pari-mutual betting. Gamblers in various terminals are not wagering on the same races. Odds don’t fluctuate as the betting money comes in. Also, terminals have some things in common with slot machines.
Andrea Young of Sam Houston Race Park says those contentions miss the point. HRTs have nothing in common. Also, the games require more skill than slot machines, which are entirely luck-based. “We are not interested in doing something that has not been authorized in the state,” said Andrea Young. “We’re interested in doing something that we believe the commission has the authority to do. This is a pari-mutuel wager in connection with a horse race.”
Texas Horse Racing Needs a Boost
Mary Ruyle of the Texas Thoroughbred Association says the Texas horse racing industry has dwindled over the past 14 years. At at time, Texas had a burgeoning horse racing scene. In 2000, the state had 3,663 horse races. In 2013, that number had dwindled to 911. The TTA spokeswoman says the industry operates at a disadvantage to other nearby states, because the slot machine type gaming swells coffers and allows for much larger purses. Louisiana, Oklahoma, and New Mexico each have racing terminals, so these venues offer much larger purses than Texas racetracks currently have the ability to do. Simply to remain competitive, Texas racing venues must adapt to the current gaming environment.
As the Red Queen theory of evolution states, if you aren’t moving forward, you’re moving backward. The Texas horse racing industry needs a boost to maintain competitive in an increasingly saturated gaming market. Few things at casinos can compete with the thrill of horse racing, but the venues can only put on so many races per year. To be able to make money with an alternative form of gambling makes sense.
Texas Gaming Laws
By tradition, Texas is among the most conservative states when it comes to gambling laws. Though Texas lawmakers have a quiet robust state lottery and is part of the multi-state Powerball and Mega Millions lotteries, the state does not support casino gambling of any kind. Texans love to gamble on an individual basis, which is why private and Native American casinos just across the Texas state line have been so successful.
The size of the gambling floors at Winstar Casino and Choctaw Casino in southern Oklahoma are among the largest in the world. That gaming capital largely comes from patrons driving from the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. The gaming capital is there to keep the racetracks of Dallas and Houston in business, but state laws will need to stay receptive to conditions on the ground for these businesses.
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