betting. Two years later a bill was introduced in the House to create a horserace commission but was killed by a House vote. Almost every session since then the legislature has dealt with horseracing bills in one form or another. In 1940, for instance, the Texas Thoroughbred Horse Association noted that the increased impetus in national defense created a heavier demand for good Army horses and that horse racing encourages good horse breeding. The horse-racing bill introduced at the next session of the legislature was designed to pour more than $3 million annually into the state treasury and was earmarked “for distribution to needy persons.” Needy persons included retired teachers, dependent children of World War I veterans, the needy blind, and old people. In 1947, the chief spokesman for the horse-racing measure was Robert J. Kleberg of the King Ranch. Kleberg’s horse Assault had been the Kentucky Derby winner the year before. Rev. J. Lester Finnell, a retired Christian minister from Fort Worth and a former resident of Kentucky, told a legislative committee that year that he had frequented the races at Arlington when the horses had run there, but he had never bet. “Both gambling and drinking,” he testified, “are worse at the football games where denominational college teams play.” In 1958, the Texas Thoroughbred Breeders Association launched yet another effort to revive pari-mutuel bet ting via constitutional amendment. “Our aim,” a spokesman explained, “is to raise old-age pension payments in Texas to $85 a month. Today the old folks can’t’ afford to buy cigarettes on the pittance they receive.” Prominent Texans backing the drive that year included Clint Murchison of Dallas and Sid Richardson of Fort Worth. In 1961, San Antonio Rep. V. E. sional gambler and a tavern-keeper, began his decade-long crusade to legalize pari-mutuel betting. As far back as 1935, Berry had been the target of Texas Ranger investigations into bookmaking, and in the late 1940s, his Turf Club in San Antonio was raided by police. When a group of San Antonio ministers con -..”?,R AT BILLY BOB’S . . .” As a Clements supporter last year, Johnson almost faced a personal economic crisis when the horse-racing folks questioned whether he’d have the ear of the new governor. Of course, he wasn’t the only lobbyist with a Clements hangover. Rep. Hugo Berlanga huddled inside a big blue overcoat and said the biggest opposition to this year’s bill might come from Oklahoma \(where pari-mutuel wagering was legalized racing commissioner said her state legalized pari-mutuel betting thirteen years ago and that it generates $20 million annually in state revenues and employs 30-55,000 people. Harmon Lisnow said his boss, Comptroller Bob Bullock, has supported pari-mutuel gambling since 1974. Lisnow, a tall man with a neatly trimmed beard and a fancy western hat whose salary had just been raised over the $60,000 mark, said he raised Arabians horses, we presumed. After a quick look at B. F. Phillips’ horses beautiful, majestic creatures it was back to the “Million Dollar Horse Spectacular” at Billy Bob’s for a longer look at the horse people beautiful, for the most part, if not majestic, although some half a hundred European royalty were allegedly in the audience of 3,500. About fifty legislative types had also been flown up from Austin for the occasion. There was also a lovely blonde woman in tight white pants and what appeared to be kidskin knee-length white boots. There was a tall, dark-haired woman in boots, tight pants, and a flowing silk blouse prowling panther-like at the arm of a veteran lawmaker. There were well preserved women in prairie skirts and turquoise and lovely women in the latest suede from Santa Fe. There were men in their Sunday boots and fancy Stetsons and western-cut suits and one fellow in a full-length mink coat. The old cowboy actor Dale Robertson was there, dressed in black like Lash LaRue, with a red bandana to set it off. House Speaker Gib Lewis was there in boots, Stetson, a camel’s hair western suit, and yellow silk bandana. “You supporting pari-mutuel gambling?” I asked the speaker. He flashed his Gene Autry grin, draped his arm over my shoulder, and then made a show of pulling up the napkin around his bottle of Lone Star. “You’re trying to get me in trouble with a question like that,” he said, and then he launched into a long, funny tale about a politician’s beat-around-the-bush answer to a question about whiskey-drinking. It was quite a show. Guests paid $50 a ticket $500 if you wanted to sit up front to eat barbecue, watch a stud-service auction, and listen to the country sounds of Sammi Smith and Merle Haggard and some fellow named Nelson who substituted for Dolly Parton at the last moment. \(Dolly had canceled after threats were made against her stud services of 33 stallions one horse brought $150,000 and ticket sales came to $450,000. When Willie and Merle sang their last song along about 1 in the morning, the Texas Horse Racing Association had spent $200,000 on lawmakers and the media. It had raised for itself close to $1 million to “inform and to promote horse racing as a sport and the significant economic contribution it can make to the Texas economy. J. R. Ewing himself couldn’t have done it better. J. H. THE TEXAS OBSERVER 9
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