Texas Official: Constitutional Amendment for Gaming

by Raymond Whelan

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has declared voters must approve an amendment to the state constitution before any of the 10 licensed horse or Greyhound tracks in Texas can install video lottery terminals.

Though the Texas Horsemen's Partnership and other racing representatives called the ruling a setback, officials said it would not stop their efforts to bring VLTs to Texas racetracks.

Texas has operated a state lottery since 1991. Abbott said a narrow definition of the term "lottery" under current Texas law cannot be interpreted to allow the state to operate slot machines or VLTs.

While legislative leaders discussed how to balance the state budget with a projected $9.9-billion deficit, Texas Sen. Ken Armbrister introduced a bill to approve VLTs last March. Support for the proposal came from the THP, which represents Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse interests; the Texas Agri-Industry Council; the Texas Thoroughbred Association; and other groups that claim VLTs would boost purses and raise several hundred million dollars each year in tax revenue for the state.

Last April, Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts Carole Keeton Strayhorn also called for the state to adopt a video lottery system. THP officials said more than 800 of its 5,000 members had asked state officials to approve the legalization of VLTs. However, the bill and similar gaming proposals never received a hearing by the time the state legislature completed its regular session in June.