PHOTO: The state’s racetracks, including Retama Park in Selma, were shuttered on Tuesday but reopened Wednesday morning after key legislators agreed to temporary administrative funding for the Texas Racing Commission. Sizzlin Barbie won the Retama Park Chaplaincy Quarter Horse Classic in July 2013. PHOTO by COADY PHOTOGRAPHY VIA RETAMA PARK
11:52 a.m. WEDNESDAY, SEPT. 2. This just in from Retama Park spokesperson Kerry Andersen:
Following a short closure due to the shutdown of the Texas Racing Commission, we are pleased to announce that Retama Park Race Track will resumed full operations at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday. Last night, the Texas Lt. Governor’s office announced the Legislative Budget Board had agreed to extend temporary administrative funding to the Texas Racing Commission.
The TRC today resumed all operations, including oversight of both live racing and simulcast wagering and quickly reinstated authorization for all import simulcast wagering, live racing and exporting of live signals effective Sept. 2.
On behalf of our 250 team members we are pleased to return to business as usual and are hopeful for a long term solution to this issue and one that will protect the Texas racing industry and the hard-working individuals it employs.
by SOPHIA BOLLAG
5:34 a.m. WEDNESDAY, SEPT. 2: 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 tracks 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.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick announced Tuesday evening the two sides had reached a compromise deal to fund the agency through November while not approving the full $15.4 million two-year budget the agency had requested. It was unclear Tuesday if the deal was official, or when it would take effect.
Patrick’s announcement, however, came a day after he sparked erroneous reports with a similar statement Monday that a deal had been reached. Patrick spokesman Alejandro Garcia later said the statement only reflected the Senate’s position.
“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.
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 track spokesman Mike Lavigne.
The racetrack’s president, Andrea Young, said the LBB 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.”
SOPHIA BOLLAG reports for The Texas Tribune where this story was originally published. It is made available here through a news partnership between the Texas Tribune and the San Marcos Mercury.