With his appointment of Texas Racing Commission Chairman Rolando Pablos as Secretary of State set to take effect on January 5th, Gov. Greg Abbott will once again be tasked with picking a chairman for the beleaguered horse and dog racing regulator.

Abbott appointed Pablos chairman of the Racing Commission in 2015. Pablos reversed his predecessor’s actions enacting an unconstitutional and illegal new form of gambling called “historical racing.”

Critics pointed out that historical racing machines were functionally identical to slot machines.

The Racing Commission, however, is back in the swing of facilitating the casino gambling speculators who largely own Texas horse and dog racing tracks.

In November, the Racing Commission reopened dog racing at Texas tracks for the first time since 2009. The practice is totally unprofitable, but dog track owners need to occasionally run races in order to maintain their licenses.

The track owners hope to keep the licenses active until they can change the law to allow them to operate slot machines at the tracks. Alternatively, they may hope to try another end-run around the legislature as they tried doing when they had the Texas Racing Commission, which is composed almost exclusively of industry insiders, adopt the historical racing rules.

In the meantime, running a few unprofitable live dog races allows the tracks to make money off of simulcasting horse and dog races held elsewhere.

Abbott should appoint someone who will give effect to the laws that are on the books, not another industry insider who will make a mockery of the law in order to profit personally.

Texas horse and dog racing tracks should be required to show they can run profitable races, or else they should be forced to shutter their doors. The tracks have laid dormant as dens for slot machine speculators for far too long.

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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