Lawmaker seeks attorney general’s opinion on instant racing

A state representative from Northeast Texas has asked Attorney General Greg Abbott whether the Texas Racing Commission has authority to authorize “instant racing” machines at racetracks.

dan flynn91Rep. Dan FlynnRep. Dan Flynn, R-Van, co-chair of the House Select Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations, submitted a formal request to the attorney general’s office July 22 asking for an official opinion about whether the Texas Racing Commission has authority to approve the devices—also known as “historical racing” machines—at Texas horse and dog racetracks.

“These machines use previously run races to derive outcomes, yet they look and play like slot machines,” Flynn wrote in his letter to Abbott.

The machines display information—and a brief video clip—from previously run races stripped of identifying markers. They also allow players the option of pushing a single button to play and allowing the machine to make wagering choices.

The Texas Racing Act grants the Texas Racing Commission authority to make rules for greyhound or horse racing in the state, but it only authorizes pari-mutuel wagering on live or simulcast racing—not previously run races, Flynn asserted.

“Historical racing” machines violate the Texas Constitution by creating a new form of lottery, and they appear to be illegal gambling devices as defined by the Texas Penal Code, he added.

Rob Kohler, consultant with the Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission, voiced confidence the attorney general will decide the Texas Racing Commission lacks authority to authorize the machines. He praised Flynn as “a longtime friend and supporter of the fight against gambling expansion in Texas.”

Both Kohler and Rodger Weems, chair of Stop Predatory Gambling-Texas, expressed hope the commission would wait for the attorney general’s opinion before taking any further action.

“The decent, honorable and lawful thing for the Texas Racing Commission to do at this point is to halt their plans to approve so-called ‘historical racing’ until the attorney general rules on the request for opinion,” Weems said.

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