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Voters can place their bets on horse racing, simulcast

Currently, if you want to legally bet on horse races, you’d have to travel about 100 miles to Sam Houston Race Park in Houston, or if you take Texas 73 and Interstate 10, you can be in Vinton, La., at Delta Downs Racetrack and Casino.

That drive would be considerably shorter if voters approve two propositions on the ballot for the Nov. 5 election.

Voters in Jefferson County are set to decide whether to legalize pari-mutuel wagering on horse races and legalize pari-mutuel wagering on simulcast races in the Jefferson County.

Kevin Johnson, horse racing enthusiast who was involved in the push to get the issue on the ballot, said there are benefits to passing the propositions: jobs, tax revenue and entertainment.

“What’s very interesting is that this was looked at several years back and I think they identified about 36,000 jobs directly and indirectly tied to racing in the State of Texas,” Johnson said.

Johnson is referring to a 2011 “Study of the Current State of Horse and Greyhound Racing in Texas and Industry Recommendations for Improvement” in response to the legislature calling for a study at that time.

The racing industry in Texas, it reads, contributes $5.5 billion to the Texas economy and 36,000 jobs; the jobs are found in 40 different sectors of the Texas economy. Racetracks are licensed and regulated by the Texas Racing Commission.

“Delta Downs, if you remove the casino side, for years operated as a racetrack. That’s what we’re looking at on this particular track (if approved),” Johnson said. “This will be horse racing and simulcast, full blown quarter-horse and thoroughbred racing.”

Pari-mutuel horse racing is on-track betting where you are physically on the location when bets are open. Simulcast is off-track betting where you can bet on races in other areas that are broadcast or not broadcast.

Johnson is also responsible for the Help Pass Horse Racing in Jefferson County Facebook page, which encourages voters to approve the propositions.

Texas State Rep. Joe Deshotel Sr., D-Beaumont, filed a casino bill that ties gaming to windstorm insurance coverage that would allow casino gambling in certain coastal areas of the state by licensed persons to provide additional money for residual windstorm insurance coverage and catastrophic flooding assistance in the coastal areas — Pleasure Island in Jefferson County is one of the areas listed. The bill remains pending in committee, according to the Texas Legislature’s webpage.

Jefferson County Judge Jeff Branick said the propositions, if passed, would authorize horse betting and off-track betting but does not provide a location.

Early voting

The numbers appear low — 554 ballots — for the first two days of early voting in the county, where voters can cast their ballots in 11 locations. Aside from the two propositions, voters will also see 10 state propositions as well as elections for city council in Groves, a streets issue in Port Neches and bonds for Port Neches-Groves and Sabine Pass school districts, among other issues.

Early voting continues from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Friday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday, and 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Oct. 28 to Nov. 1.

Election day is Nov. 5.

Local voting locations include:

  • Port Arthur Public Library, 4615 Ninth Ave., Port Arthur
  • Port Arthur Sub-Courthouse, 525 Lakeshore Drive, Port Arthur
  • Marion & Ed Hughes Public Library, 2715 Nederland Ave., Nederland
  • Groves Recreation Center, 6150 39th St., Groves
  • Effie & Wilton Hebert Library, 2025 Merriman St., Port Neches