Horse Tracks Bet on Racinos

Groups lobby Texas Legislature for casinos at race tracks

A bill expected to be filed in the Texas Legislature as early as this week would legalize "racinos" -- casinos at race tracks.

Pro-gambling groups are lobbying legislators to allow slot machines at horse tracks, dog tracks and Indian casinos.

"We're losing $2 billion a year across the border," said Mike Lavigne,a spokesman for Texans for Economic Development, which represents Texas horse tracks. "We believe we can reclaim a lot of that."

If gambling is legalized, Lone Star Park in Grand Prairie would launch a $100 million expansion to add thousands of slot machines, said Drew Shubeck, president of Lone Star Park.

"We think this would be great for Texas," Shubeck said. "It would create 53,000 permanent jobs... And what's wrong with that?"

Gambling opponents are lining up to fight the measure.

"This is about making big money for a few people and taking it out of the pocket of the sucker," said Weston Warehome, legislative director for Texans Against Gambling.

Similar bills have gone nowhere in past years, but Levigne said with the tight state budget, it has a better chance at passing now.

"I do believe we have the necessary support," he said.

A poll commissioned by a pro-gambling group found 63 percent of Texas voters favored allowing slot machines at horse tracks and Indian casinos.

If the Legislature approves, voters would still have the final say. A public referendum would be set, possibly in November.

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