- Associated Press - Thursday, July 24, 2014

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - A Texas lawmaker is asking Attorney General Greg Abbott to weigh in on whether a state commission has the authority to allow a new form of betting called historical racing.

Republican State Rep. Dan Flynn this week requested a review of devices that are like slot machines and allow people to bet on horse and dog races that have already happened. The videos are stripped of any identifying information so people can’t tell what races they’re betting on.

Race track owners have asked the Texas Racing Commission to allow the machines as a way to help their struggling industry. They say it’s another form of legal betting. The public still has several days to comment and the commission could vote as early as next month.

But Flynn, chairman of the House Select Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations, said it amounts to an expansion of gambling and would require a two-thirds vote from lawmakers and approval from voters.

“We make public policy, not the commissions,” he said. “There is a question about usurping the authority of the Legislature.”

Commission officials said they would be glad to hear from the attorney general on the issue, though they do not believe allowing historical racing constitutes an expansion of gambling that would require legislative approval. The proposal has wide support from the racing industry.

Phillip Oldham, attorney for Sam Houston Race Park, said in a statement that the racing commission has the right to decide.

“Texas needs to embrace this technological advancement in wagering to remain competitive,” he said.

Other states have differed in their handling of historical racing. Regulators in Arkansas have approved it and the Supreme Court in Kentucky ruled that the racing commission there could do the same. But Nebraska and Maryland have both ruled that historical racing is not the same as pari-mutuel betting.

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