Texas Racing Commission Gets Temporary Funding

Entrepreneur Mark Martinez owns and races thoroughbred horses. It's an expensive sport.

"If I want to run in a first-level allowance race here in the state of Texas, I'm going to be running a purse of only $15,000 to 18,000,” Martinez said.

Other purses out of state are much, much higher. Wednesday, Martinez has a filly competing for stakes 10 times larger.

RELATED | Lawmakers Reach Deal to Fund Texas Racing Commission

"Those purses are funded and supported by historical races at Kentucky Downs,” Martinez said.

It's money that trickles down further than you might think.

"It's not just the horse owners and trainers. It's the veterinarians, the feed stores, the grooms, the jockeys, etc.," Martinez said.

Horse racing is a $5.5 billion industry in Texas alone, according to state numbers. That's 36,000 jobs attached to 40 different sectors in the Lone Star State.

"This is not an inexpensive hobby or business,” Martinez said.

But the multibillion-dollar industry is hurting, so parks like Retama lobbied to bring in so-called historical racing, which is a form of horse betting on video terminals from previous races.

"It leaves racing within the confines of gambling within a facility that already exists,” Martinez said.

Last week, the racing commission voted to keep historical racing, a major gamble since lawmakers threatened to yank the commission's funding if machines were not banned.

That gamble appeared to backfire, but late Tuesday afternoon, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick announced a temporary 90-day extension, pushing this fight farther down the track.

It’s not yet known if the state's racetracks, including Retama Park, will reopen Wednesday.

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