After the Texas Lottery Commission was caught in April with its hand in the cookie jar trying to pass back door slot machines, it now appears the gambling industry has shifted its focus to a different set of bureaucrats. Yesterday the Texas Racing Commission, which governs “pari-mutuel wagering” at Texas horse and dog tracks voted to move forward on a rule which would allow “historical racing machines.”

Like the farce of instant pull tab bingo machines entertained by the Lottery Commission, “historical racing machines” contain guts that are different from a slot machine but an outward appearance which would fool even the keenest observer.

The machines technically work by allowing bets on a random selection of thousands of historical races in which the identifying features (tracks, horses, and jockeys) have been removed. Players bet on horses to win, place, or show and run between a one-in-ten and one-in-seven chance of winning depending on which features are used.

However the machines largely dispense with the horse racing elements, reducing the “race” to a three second clip which is viewed in a small two inch square in one corner of the machine’s display. Instead, the games, which feature names like “Yukon Willie’s Gold Rush” and “Cash Carnival” feature flashing lights and spinning reels like a slot machine. (The Yukon Willie game represents win, place, and show with gold nuggets, ore carts, and pick axes, respectively.)

The Racing Commission was called out in its attempts to expand gambling by the leaders of the national organization “Stop Predatory Gambling.” The group called the proposed rules “an obvious attempt to legalize slot machines in Texas using the backdoor to circumvent the Legislature.” The groups also noted that, unlike other states like Wyoming, where the machines were declared to be illegal slot machines, gambling expansion in Texas is expressly forbidden by our state constitution.

Not even the Texas legislature can expand slot machines without the approval of Texas voters. It should offend every Texan that seven unelected bureaucrats on the Racing Commission believe they can usurp the authority granted to Texans by our Constitution. If the commissioners continue to move forward with their constitutionally unauthorized plan to implement what one national commission called “the crack cocaine of gambling,” then the governor who appointed them, and the senators who approved them, should demand the resignation of each of the seven member of the Texas Racing Commission.

Tony McDonald

Tony McDonald serves as General Counsel to Texas Scorecard. A licensed and practicing attorney, Tony specializes in the areas of civil litigation, legislative lawyering, and non-profit regulatory compliance. Tony resides in Austin with his wife and daughter and attends St. Paul Lutheran Church.


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