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Commission authority again questioned

By Daniel Greer | 39 minutes ago

Pressure has begun to mount on the Texas Racing Commission as it continues to lurch toward expanding gambling in Texas.

The commission has been considering a rule that would result in the installation of themed slot machines at Texas racetracks. Sunday was the last day of public comment on the proposed rule. With action by the commission approaching, lawmakers have begun to more vocally object to the agency’s activity.

On Monday, five Republicans likely to be in the Texas Senate come 2015 sent a letter to the commission urging them to abandon further pursuit of the rule. Paul Bettencourt, Konni Burton, Bob Hall, Don Huffines and Van Taylor all objected to the way the commission was conducting business, circumventing the legislative process.

Rule by government bureaucracy is a growing trend in Texas. The five letter signers said that the rule “clearly breaks existing law.”

Earlier in July the Racing Commission held a public comment hearing in Austin. The meeting was not attended by any of the commissioners. Most audience members and witnesses present had horse racing interests.

Since the commission posted the rule for public comment on June 10th hundreds of form letters have been submitted to the commission advocating for the rule. As was the case with the hearing, most of those stand to gain financially from the expansion of gambling. Objections to the rule have centered around the inhumane treatment of greyhound dogs.

While Republican lawmakers have increasingly spoken out against the rule, only a couple of Democrats have stepped out in favor. Roberto Alonzo (D-Dallas) submitted a letter to the commission encouraging adoption of the rule. The Dallas Democrat represents part of Grand Prairie, where Lone Star Park is located.

Joining Alonzo in support of the rule Monday was Senator Juan Hinojosa. Like Alonzo, Hinojosa represents a city with interests in expanding gambling. Mission, Texas is 8 miles from Hinojosa’s hometown McAllen and is home to Las Palmas Race Park.

Last week Rep. Dan Flynn (R-Van) asked Attorney General Greg Abbott for an opinion on the rule-making authority the commission is trying to assert. Similar maneuvers in other states have resulted in lawsuits.

Meanwhile, horse racing in Texas continues to be closely tied to illegal behavior including drug cartel activity.