Racing Commission can’t see straight


Horses are still grouped shortly after the start of July race at Lone Star Park in Grand Prairie.
Horses are still grouped shortly after the start of July race at Lone Star Park in Grand Prairie. Star-Telegram

The standoff between the nine-member Texas Racing Commission and the state’s most powerful legislators continued on Tuesday when the commission failed to repeal a controversial new form of gambling.

Some commission members just don’t get it. There is no way they can win this lopsided contest, nor should they.

That doesn’t mean they can’t achieve their goal of allowing “historical racing” at Texas horse tracks on machines that look a lot like slot machines.

But they’ll have to go through the Legislature, not around it.

For now, they stand to lose administrative funding for the agency in February, which means the commission and all tracks would have to shut down.

A state district judge ruled last year that the commission had gone beyond its authority in authorizing the machines, which allow people to bet on depictions of previously run races without any of the identifying markings on contestants or tracks.

The commission didn’t appeal that ruling, but track owners and horse industry associations did.

A hearing on the appeal could come next month.

The appeal is a lot like a final-seconds “hail Mary” pass in football, only it’s far less likely to succeed.

Success would mean the appeals court would have to nullify the Legislature’s vote on the state budget earlier this year. That vote created the threat of defunding the agency’s administrative spending if the commission doesn’t repeal its approval of historical racing machines.

Under the state constitution, the Legislature controls the budget. Courts aren’t going to interfere with that.

Texas racetrack owners and horse industry representative have given tearful testimony on behalf of the thousands of people they employ.

Their industry will die, they say, and people will lose their jobs unless tracks can get income from gambling on historical racing.

That income could boost prize money and make Texas racing more competitive with other states.

No one can help being moved by that testimony. Texans don’t want fellow Texans to lose their jobs.

But again, the remedy is through the Legislature, proving the case to lawmakers, not trying to freeze out the democratically elected representatives of the entire state.

The commission will have one more chance to vote on repealing its historical racing approval during a meeting in February.

Authorized administrative funding expires later that month.

That’s when the “hail Mary” pass hits the ground. Funding should stop if the commission doesn’t back down.