Racing Industry Clean-up Bill Passes in Committee

The racing industry’s legislation that will clean up certain provisions of the Texas Racing Act was heard by the House Committee on Licensing and Administrative Procedures on Tuesday, March 27. The bill was approved by the committee and sent to the full House, where it is now waiting for a date that it will be considered by the Representatives.

The bill proposes Texas Racing Commission-recommended changes that will improve agency regulation and oversight. It also includes changes that clarify regulatory definitions, revise the agency’s method of finance, and provides a one-year expiration date on all pari-mutuel tickets.

HB 2701 also removes out-of-date provisions and gives the Commission some additional flexibility to conduct pre-race or post-race testing of horses and greyhounds.

One of the critical elements of the bill clarifies the agency’s fee collection authority by establishing that the agency shall, by rule, recover costs through fees for the regulation, oversight and licensing of racetracks, including both live and simulcast racing.

This legislation also eliminates two of the agency’s current revenue sources: uncashed tickets and 50% of the greyhound breakage. The amounts available from these sources have decreased in recent years due to the decreased amounts wagered at the racetracks. In addition, the revenue from uncashed tickets has become more difficult to accurately project as patrons rely on new betting technology such as e-wagering machines.

Another proposed change to the Texas Racing Act will benefit the wagering public by establishing a standard, one-year expiration date for each pari-mutuel ticket. Current law provides that tickets expire 60 days after the end of a race meet. However, with year-round simulcasting, racetracks patrons are frequently unaware of a ticket’s expiration date. To overcome this deficiency, the bill proposes that all pari-mutuel tickets and vouchers expire one year after their purchase.

HB 2701 gives the Texas Racing Commission the authority to collect fees to cover the costs of doing criminal background checks on individuals requesting approval for a transfer of ownership in a racetrack license.

The bill additionally assists the agency in recruiting qualified and diverse staff by changing the prohibition on a racetrack from employing former Commission members and some former agency employees from a two-year restriction to a one-year restriction. This change will mirror the employment prohibitions at other state agencies.

If passed and signed by Governor Perry, the legislation would take effect on September 1, 2007.

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