Texas Racing Commission closed, tracks suspend races

Horse racing

The Texas Racing Commission ceased operations Tuesday and directed racetracks to stop all live and broadcast racing, according to the agency.  

The commission, which regulates dog and horse racing in the state, notified racetracks Monday night that it had not received the money necessary to remain open. Texas House and Senate members of the Legislative Budget Board failed to reach an agreement Monday to avert a shutdown. 

“I hope and think any shutdown will be brief and temporary,” commission spokesman Robert Elrod wrote in an email to reporters late Monday. “In the event of a brief shutdown, the agency has the capability to resume operations very quickly and, if it does come to that, we’ll all be back on the job as soon as possible.” 

The commission’s $7.7 million annual budget comes from licensing and fees paid by the racetracks, but the budget board must appropriate that money. 

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Republican senators threatened to defund the agency in February, saying the commission overstepped its authority by allowing historical racing — gambling on electronic simulations of past races with identifying information removed. 

Sam Houston Race Park in Houston suspended all races but remained open Tuesday to issue refunds for tickets and allow winners to cash in on past races, said Mike Lavigne, a spokesman for the track. 

The racetrack’s president, Andrea Young, said the Legislative Budget Board should hold a public meeting to reach a deal on Racing Commission funding. 

“Texans deserve transparency in government, especially when the government shuts down their entire business,” she wrote in a statement Tuesday morning. “The time has come for our state’s politicians to come out of hiding and vote in a full meeting of the Legislative Budget Board.” 

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At Lone Star Park in Grand Prairie, live racing has been on hiatus since the July 19 conclusion of the track’s spring thoroughbred season and is not scheduled to resume unti the Fall Meeting of Champions for American Quarter Horses, which is scheduled to begin Sept. 18. The track’s Bar & Book simulcast facility is continuing to operate with food and beverage service but without wagering on the races from other tracks around the country that are televised daily at the facility.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at http://www.texastribune.org/2015/09/01/racing-commission-closed-tracks-suspend-races/.