Grassroots Efforts a Success, VLTs Quest Continues

On Tuesday, in response to our "Urgent Notice" that we posted on this website, we had over 100 members of our industry show up at the Capitol. Armed with talking points and "leave-behind" material, these individuals starting knocking on doors and speaking with members of the legislature. The feedback that was received today from House members indicates that we definitely made an impression.

"It was great to look at the House gallery and see that about half of the people there were horsemen," stated Tommy J. Azopardi, Executive Director of the Texas Horsemen's Partnership.

In a disappointing move, the House accepted a motion to strip VLTs out of House Bill 1. However, we were told by our lobby team that this was probably going to be necessary in order to get a majority vote on the bill at this point and send the bill over to the Senate.

"Unfortunately, the news of VLTs being taken out of the bill sent shock waves through our industry and gave many horsemen the mistaken idea that our efforts were dead or that we were going to have to start over,” explained Azopardi. "This is just not true, and it is a prime example of where hasty, incomplete or inaccurate information is so harmful."

On first call, the House rejected House Bill 1, even without the VLT language, but it ultimately passed the bill by a narrow 73-70 margin on a motion to reconsider after a brief recess.

Subsequently on Wednesday, the House took up House Joint Resolution 1, which is the constitutional amendment provision. There was a similar amendment to strip the VLTs out of that bill as well, but this time the amendment failed by a vote of 57-84. VLTs stayed in HJR1, but the whole bill ultimately failed by a resounding margin. Most people predicted failure, and it really doesn't deter from the overall process.

Now, the Senate has a bill with which they can start to work. We are reasonably hopeful that favorable VLT language will be put in the Senate version of a bill, and that there are enough votes to pass it. Once the Senate passes a bill, which presumably will be different from the House version, then it will go back to the House for concurrence. It is highly doubtful that the House of Representatives will concur, so the bill will be referred to a Conference Committee. This committee will hopefully work out a "compromise" bill that contains our favorable language, and then it will be sent to each chamber for vote.

"The most important thing for our horsemen to know is that we still have a chance to get video lottery terminals, and they need to keep up the grassroots effort," asserted Azopardi. "If you know anyone that has not communicated with their legislators in both written and verbal form, please encourage them to write letters and start making phone calls.

Don't wait until it's too late. It would be a shame to fall only a few votes short and know that we could have made a difference with a five minute phone call.

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