Horse race betting?: Jefferson County to consider ballot vote legalizing wagers

Published 12:15 am Friday, August 30, 2019

Voters in Jefferson County will decide whether to allow betting on horse races on the Nov. 5 ballot.

The special election calls for legalizing pari-mutuel wagering on simulcast races in Jefferson County and legalizing pari-mutuel wagering on horse races in Jefferson County.

A group of advocates of the wagering collected a number of signatures from people saying they are in favor of gaming coming to the county with only five signatures against the issue, Zulema Escabedo, said.

And if voters approve the issue, she believes Ford Park in Beaumont would be the optimal location because it’s central to the area from Houston to Lake Charles.

Kevin Johnson, horse-racing enthusiast involved in the push to get the issue on the ballot, said they’ve done their research on the popularity of horse racing. Currently there are four such establishments in the state of Texas, the nearest being Sam Houston Race Park.

Then there’s Delta Downs in Louisiana, where more than 60 percent of the patrons are Texans, he said. In addition, Texas loses about $2.5 billion a year to the Louisiana casinos.

Johnson, along with Port Arthur businessman Elias Hernandez and others, have spent more than 11 years and been involved in as many as eight bills and other efforts to promote casino gambling, according to an archive story in The Port Arthur News.