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Texas horse racing industry could benefit from sports betting

Executives at Retama Park, just north of San Antonio, think if sports betting is legalized in Texas it could help boost attendance and betting. (Photo: Kentucky Derby / Youtube / MGN Online)

The United States Supreme Court has cleared the way for Texas and other states to legalize sports betting. On Monday the Supreme Court struck down a federal law that had prohibited most states from allowing sports gambling. It’s a decision that could help revive the Texas horse racing industry.

Executives at Retama Park, just north of San Antonio, think if sports betting is legalized in Texas it could help boost attendance and betting. Some of the people who come to the track to wager on basketball or football games are likely to stick around and play the ponies.

Troy Stremming is the Executive Vice President of Government Relations for Pinnacle Entertainment which owns Retama Park. He says sports betting is a $150 billion a year industry and the majority of that money is being wagered illegally.

“It would be great if we could pull that form of wagering out of the shadows and into the light and I think both help grow the horse racing industry as well as provide some consumer protection for those who are wagering on sports,” said Stremming.

Texas horse breeders would also benefit from any changes that help grow the horse racing industry. But it will be up to Texas lawmakers to decide whether to take any action in the 2019 legislative session that would legalize sports betting.

“I would not be surprised if we saw more bills this session that address sports gambling. I would be surprised if any of those bills make it to the end of the legislative session,” said Joshua Blank with the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin.

Blank bets it will take more than one legislative session before any major changes are made to legalize sports betting. That is unless the legislature's inaction starts to hurt the state's bottom line.

“If a bunch of other states start rushing to legalize sports gambling in states around Texas and Texas feels like it's losing out on revenue, and especially it it's losing out on Texas dollars to other states, that could speed up the process,” said Blank.

Texas lawmakers don't meet until January of 2019. That means it will be next summer, at the earliest, that state laws could change. Blank says it is more likely that it will be 2021 or 2023 before anything major happens that would impact the horse racing industry in Texas.

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