A state judge in South Texas signed a temporary restraining order Monday that has given hope to the state’s struggling horse and dog racing industries.
With his order, state District Judge Leonel Alejandro halted an effort by conservatives in the Legislature to do away with a type of gambling called “historical racing.” The Texas Racing Commission was scheduled to vote Tuesday morning to repeal a rule to allow the relatively new form of betting.
But the commission was served with the signed order Tuesday morning, and, as a result, the commissioners didn’t consider the historical racing-related item on Tuesday’s agenda, commission spokesman Robert Elrod confirmed.
The commission went into executive session for a few minutes and adjourned six minutes before 11 a.m.
The court hearing on the temporary restraining order is set for Feb. 18 at the 107th District Court of Cameron County in Brownsville, the court clerk confirmed.
Alejandro, a visiting judge, won’t preside of the hearing. Judge Benjamin Euresti Jr., the court’s regular judge, will hear arguments from the state and the Texas Greyhound Association, the group that filed for the temporary restraining order.
Cameron County is home to Valley Race Park in Harlingen.
The racing commission, with a recently sworn-in chairman and commissioner, was expected to flip its position on historical racing. The commission been at odds with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and state Sen. Jane Nelson, a Republican from Flower Mount and chairwoman of the Senate Finance Committee, who have called historical racing an illegal expansion of gambling. Ignoring threats from legislative leaders, the commission sided two times last year with racing industry officials who have equated historical racing to an extension of legal pari-mutuel betting.
Neither Patrick’s office nor Nelson’s office commented.
The controversial form of betting allows gamblers to wager money on already-run races that have been stripped of all identifying markers. The betting takes place electronically on terminals that look like slot machines. Track owners have maintained that historical racing, sometimes called instant racing, is crucial for their floundering industry, which they say hasn’t been able to compete with neighboring states that use other forms of legalized gambling to supplement purses at their tracks.