Virtually everyone involved in the Texas horse industry is hoping that a bill will finally pass in the 82nd Texas Legislature legalizing Video Lottery Terminals (VLTs) at Texas race tracks. After several failed attempts in past legislative sessions to get a VLT bill passed, the detriment to the Texas horse industry due to the lack of VLTs has gotten so bad in 2011, some say, that the Texas horse industry will be “dead” if VLTs do not pass this year. 

Two bills proposing the legalization of VLTs–SB 1118 and HB 2111–were introduced this legislative session. The regular legislative session ended on May 30, 2011 with the passage of neither VLT bill. Governor Rick Perry issued a proclamation on May 30 calling all legislators back the next day, May 31, for a 30-day special session.

The two original agenda items for the special session, as set by the Governor, were 1) measures that will allow school districts to operate more efficiently; and 2) healthcare cost containment, access to services through managed care, and the creation of economic and structural incentives to improve the quality of Medicaid services. Both of these items concerned HB 1 (the “Budget Bill”).

Governor Perry has since added Congressional redistricting as a third item to be addressed during the special session. The Governor can add more items to the agenda, but House and Senate members cannot bring up bills unrelated to the items on the call. According to Dave Hooper, Executive Director of the Texas Thoroughbred Association’s June 3 update, “to date, there is no indication that any new items would include consideration of major new funding sources, which were never looked at during the regular session even though the state was faced with an immense budget shortfall.”

The Texas HORSE coalition’s home page bears the following statement today:

“Although we were not successful in getting legislation passed in the 82nd Legislative Session to help the Texas horse industry, your voices were heard in Austin!  Please continue to communicate with your personal Representative and Senator and let them know how vital VLT legislation is for the future of the Texas horse agri-industry.”

Unless the Governor adds to the special session agenda the issue of new funding sources to include in the Budget Bill, it appears unlikely that VLTs will pass in Texas this year.