Texas Racing Industry Comes Together On Groundbreaking Cross-Species Agreement

In a historic and perhaps unprecedented move, the entire Texas pari-mutuel industry came together this week and signed an agreement that will provide additional revenue to horse purses from wagering on dog races at horse tracks and horse races at dog tracks.

The Racing Act was amended in 1997 to provide for cross-species wagering, which is the act of betting on dog races at horse tracks and vice versa. Certain percentages were adopted into law, which provide purse money for horse owners and dog owners from this activity. Unfortunately, the percentages in the law did not allow for an equitable distribution of the money generated for purses. The Texas Horsemen's Partnership (THP), which is the officially recognized organization representing horsemen, quickly realized that horsemen were not getting their fair share of the purse money once tracks started offering this new type of wager and began negotiations with the horse tracks and the Texas Greyhound Association to redistribute the money.

In 1999, the THP contracted with Retama Park and Sam Houston Race Park to contribute 1% of all wagers taken on dog races at their respective tracks in 2000 and 1.5% of those wagers in 2001, in addition to another agreement with Manor Downs. This has amounted to $971,804 to date, which has been added to horse purses strictly as a result of the THP's efforts to protect horsemen's interests. Under the terms of this new agreement, horsemen should gain over $400,000 in additional money over and above what the THP had worked for in the past.

David Arnold, past president of the Texas Thoroughbred HBPA and current board member, was instrumental in the agreement. Mr. Arnold worked countless hours and attended numerous meetings over the past two years to get to this point.

Speaking of Arnold, THP Executive Director Tommy Azopardi said, "His ability to keep the players at the table negotiating and his patience was incredible. These negotiations started nearly three ago under the direction of David Graham, who was chairman of the THP at the time."

Azopardi continued, "Graham and Arnold are to be commended by all horsemen for their unselfish efforts and dedication to the industry."

The agreement also outlines an allocation for distributing the Cross Species Escrow account that the Texas Racing Commission administers. This account was created by the Texas Racing Act when cross species wagering was enacted, and it is funded by 4.5% of all wagers on interstate horse races taken at dog tracks in Texas.

In years past, Gillespie County Fair, Sam Houston Race Park and Retama Park have been the only three tracks applying for the money. At times, it has been a contentious battle between some of those tracks, and this year was shaping up to be worse with all Texas horse tracks expected to apply for a portion of the purse money. Under this agreement, all of the tracks came to a consensus on how to distribute the funds in the account.

Azopardi commented, "We are certainly pleased, and I would expect that the Racing Commission will be relieved by this news as well."

The agreement goes into effect on December 3, which is also the date of the next meeting for the Texas Racing Commission.

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