Texas Racing Industry Still Hopeful for VLTs

Racing industry leaders are still optimistic about the opportunity to introduce and pass legislation that will allow the state's existing pari-mutuel licensees to operate video lottery terminals (VLTs). In recent press releases, both Governor Rick Perry and Lt. Governor David Dewhurst are stating that they want another special session to address the issues of public school financing and property taxes. Both leaders indicated that a session could be called in July or August, thereby giving lawmakers enough time to pass legislation and place any constitutional amendments on the November ballot.

Two legislative working groups have been formed to study the issues of education reform and how to finance those needs while finding a way to lower Texas property taxes. Each committee is comprised of six members from the House of Representatives and six members from the Senate. The committee responsible for finding revenue sources has acknowledged that allowing VLTs at racetracks would generate a substantial amount of money to the state. The committee has not reached any conclusions at this point, but many believe that progress is being made in an attempt to reach a consensus among legislators.

Meanwhile, the Texas Racing Agri-industry Council (TRAC) has been busy preparing public and political campaign strategies. The group, which is comprised of all segments of the Texas pari-mutuel industry, is focusing on grass roots programs, legislator education of our issues, and public awareness.

"We are optimistic that racing will get another opportunity to pass legislation that will put Texas racing on par with the best tracks in the country," stated Tommy J. Azopardi, executive director of the Texas Horsemen's Partnership. Azopardi continued, "It is great to see the cooperative effort put forth by everyone in our industry. We are all aware of the challenges before us if we are not successful, and everyone is committed to a legislative victory."

The legislative process is complex and any campaign requires a significant commitment of resources. In order to develop the materials necessary and hire the talent needed, we must raise money from our membership, explained Azopardi.

The Texas Horsemen's Partnership has worked to establish a Political Action fund called the Texas Horsemen's PAC. Horsemen can make one-time or sustaining contributions directly to the fund, or they can sign check-off cards that authorize the horsemen's bookkeeper at each Texas racetrack to deduct a certain amount of money each time they start a horse and/or win a race. To get more details on this program, please call the Austin office of the Texas Horsemen's Partnership at (512) 467-9799 or stop by any bookkeeper's office at the racetrack.

Together we can win this fight!

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