Group to propose gambling bill to boost horse industry - KFDA - NewsChannel 10 / Amarillo News, Weather, Sports

Group to propose gambling bill to boost horse industry

AMARILLO - A group with supporters here in the panhandle plans to propose a bill in January that would boost the horse industry, but critics say if it passed it could bring costly crime.
Texas has always been known worldwide for cowboys and horses.
But Texas HORSE, a group aimed at making Texas the leader of the U.S. horse industry, say that's not the case anymore.
"The history of Texas was made on the back of a horse," Executive Director of Texas HORSE Dan Fick said. "Texas is still the number one state in terms of horses total and horses being born in the state, but that margin is rapidly declining."
In an effort to bring horse owners, breeders, trainers and jockeys back to Texas from surrounding states, horsemen want Texas to amend its constitution to allow video lottery machines, or slot machines, in state race tracks.
"We're losing jobs, we're losing people, we're losing money, and horses," Fick said.
The bill would require 30 percent of profit from the machines go to the state for taxes. Ten million dollars would go to law enforcement to combat the crime that is associated with gambling.

"I think the fact that they would include that in their proposal tells you that they're aware as I am that gambling always brings with it these additional problems," Randall County District Attorney James Farren said.

Farren has prosecuted dozens of illegal gambling cases. He says since Texas allows some forms of gambling, (bets on horse and dog races, the lottery, and bingo halls) it makes it confusing to enforce. 

Farren is  not for or against legalizing gambling, but believes the state should choose a stance and stick to it.
"If we're going to be a gambling state, then let's be a gambling state. if not, then let's get out," Farren said. "But we need to get in or get out."
Similar bills to legalize gambling at horse tracks have been shut down by the legislature in the past. But with an economy in need of stimulation, horsemen believe there's a chance in 2013.
"The benefit from the tax money generated by these machines can be earmarked for education, social services, and of course for addictive behavior programs and law enforcement," Fick said.
The bill is still being perfected. But Fick says it will be very similar to one shut down by the legislature last year. The Texas legislature is back in session January 8th.

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