COLLEGE STATION — The expected completion of three large racetracks by 1997 will nearly double the number of days of horse racing available in Texas and could generate more than 16,000 new jobs, according to an economic analysis by a Texas A&M University researcher.
The economic impact of the Texas horse-racing industry could jump from roughly $600 million to $800 million in annual business sales to more than $1.5 billion annually within the next few years, said Dr. Lonnie Jones, an economist with the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station and co-author of the recent study.
“However, this growth will not occur automatically, and these numbers are likely on the optimistic side,” Jones said. Just to cite one example of how growth projections could change, he noted, if casino gambling is approved in Texas, it could become a major competitor with horse racing, as it has been in other states.
“Racing horses is an entertainment business,” Jones said, “and those in the industry are going to have to be pretty creative to compete.”
The industry’s challenge, he said, is to create an entertainment experience that can continue to attract consumer interest and dollars. That may also mean investigating other racing options, which include off-track wagering and simulcasting races.
Jones will discuss his economic findings at the second annual Texas Race Horse Conference, which will be held Jan. 14 at the Capital Marriott in Austin.
The one-day conference begins at 8 a.m. and is free to the public. The conference was created to disseminate information from research projects sponsored by the Texas Equine Research Account, a fund created by the Texas legislature.
Texas currently has one major racetrack, Sam Houston Race Park near Houston, which is designated a Class I racetrack. Three medium-sized, or Class II racetracks, are located in Bandera, Manor and near Weatherford. A Class III racetrack in Fredericksburg operates only during county fairs.
By 1997, two new Class I racetracks are projected to be added in San Antonio and Dallas, and the Weatherford racetrack,Trinity Meadows, will be upgraded to Class I. Races usually are held 165 days per year at each track, although more days may be granted by the Texas Racing Commission.
Texas will offer about 485 race days in 1994, according to Jean Cook of the Texas Racing Commission. The Commission has approved 563 race days in 1995.
Jones projected that with the new tracks completed and operating at full capacity, Texas racetracks could offer 750 to 800 race days per year. To fill the race cards for that many days would take as many as 11,000 horses in active training and racing, about twice the number now being used. Nearly half of the horses could be Texas-trained, significantly boosting the horse-breeding farm segment of the industry.
The economist estimated that by the time the proposed tracks become fully operational, racetrack revenues and expenditures could rise from an estimated $210 million to about $370 million per year, while total industry-related employment could increase from 17,000 to 33,000 jobs.
The industry’s $1.5 billion in projected sales, which totals the economic activity of racetracks, horse farms, trainers and owners, and all other related businesses, roughly equals the farm gate receipts for the state’s cotton crop in a recent good year.
“As such, the racetrack industry is not going to revolutionize the Texas economy, but it will generate a lot of local activity at the farm level and in cities where they are located,” Jones said.
The research project, “An Economic Analysis of Texas Horse Racing in An Evolving Gaming Industry,” collected and analyzed data from horse owners, breeders and trainers, as well as racetrack projections of earnings.
“Some of these projections are based on some heroic assumptions by the racetracks involved,” Jones said. “We just don’t know yet if they are going to develop as robustly as projected.”
Jones also noted that precise information about the current economic impacts of the Texas horseracing industry is scarce, in part because the industry is so new.
Other topics covered at the Jan. 14 race horse conference will include research updates on the immunobiology of the racehorse, hoof dynamics in the exercising racehorse, mineral balance and bone remodeling in young horses, and musculoskeletal injuries and the impact of racing injuries to Thoroughbred horses.
One of the featured speakers is Steven Crist of New York, a racing correspondent for the New York Times, who will talk about selling racing as a sport.
The conference will be dedicated to the late B.F. Phillips Jr. of Frisco during a luncheon that day. Phillips was the owner of the world-renowned Phillips Ranch and was one of the premier breeders of racing Quarter horses in the United States. Phillips, who died in 1987, is considered the most influential person in returning pari- mutual racing to Texas.
The keynote speaker at the luncheon dedication is John Ed Anthony, owner of Loblolly Stable in Lake Hamilton, Ark., The cost of the luncheon is $15.
The conference is organized by the Texas Agricultural Extension Service, in cooperation with several state horse associations. Further information is available from Dr. Doug Householder, Extension horse specialist, (979) 845-1562.