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What Does the Future of Horse Racing in Texas Look Like?

A regulatory feud between state and federal agencies is threatening the future of thoroughbred racing in Texas.

What’s happening: The Texas Racing Commission, which has overseen Texas horse racetracks for more than 100 years, is clashing with the newly established federal Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority over who should regulate racing at the state’s horse tracks.

  • As a result, the TRC decided to halt almost all out-of-state simulcasts of horse races in Texas — including events at Lone Star Park in Grand Prairie — dropping the amount bet on Texas races by more than 90%, per Play Texas.
  • Dwight Berube, general manager of the Sam Houston Race Park in Houston, called the decision “devastating.”
  • The TRC is part of a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of HISA.

The big picture: Until recently, the horse racing industry contributed nearly $1 billion to the state’s annual GDP and accounted for more than 10,000 jobs, according to a Texas A&M study.

Catch up fast: HISA was created by a 2020 federal bill designed to address a nationwide spike in horse deaths at racetracks. The law gives the agency the authority to regulate state racetracks for consistency and safety, which includes the ability to broadcast races in other states for the purposes of off-track betting.

  • The TRC contends that the 1986 Texas Racing Act prevents outside entities from regulating Texas horse racing.

Between the lines: Texas tracks were already operating at a disadvantage compared with tracks in Louisiana and Arkansas, where casino gambling provides additional revenue.

  • Texas also doesn’t allow gamblers to bet online — which won’t change any time soon, despite a strong push during this year’s Legislative session.

By the numbers: The amount bet on races at the track in Houston this year reportedly dropped 92% from 2022.

Zoom out: Churchill Downs, the historic home of the Kentucky Derby, recently suspended operations after 12 horses there died over the last month.

What we’re watching: If appellate judges disagree on the legality of federal regulations, the fate of horse racing in Texas could eventually make it all the way to the Supreme Court.

Source: Axios