Texas Racing Commission chairman resigns as historical racing debate continues

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) – Robert Schmidt has resigned as chairman of the Texas Racing Commission in a dispute over allowing so-called historical racing at Texas tracks.

The Austin American-Statesman reports that Gov. Greg Abbott accepted Schmidt’s resignation as head of the commission on Monday, although the Fort Worth physician will remain a commission member. Schmidt’s resignation as chairman came after his refusal to support repeal of a rule the commission adopted in 2014 – and upheld last August – allowing Texas horse and dog tracks to install terminals for historical racing. The terminals offer bets on previously run races with identifying information removed.

Schmidt and many in the racing industry see historical racing as a way to bolster Texas’ struggling racing business. Key leaders in the state Legislature have said historical racing is a new form of gambling that can only be approved by lawmakers.

The issue has also gone through the state court system, with members of the racing community appealing a lower court’s ruling that said the commission did not have the right to approve historical racing.

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Schmidt will be replaced by Rolando Pablos, who the governor appointed to the commission last month. Pablos served as chairman of the commission from 2008 to 2011, and also worked as a commissioner on the Public Utility Commission.

The racing commission could still refuse to repeal the rule, even with Schmidt out as chairman. The commission could vote to repeal the rule at its meeting next week, or it could decide to republish rules to allow more time to consider the matter.

Information from: Austin American-Statesman (http://atxne.ws/1XWtDCR