KAUFMAN COUNTY, Texas — Three known horse racing tracks have been put on notice by county and law enforcement officials after the Kaufman County Commissioners’ Court unanimously approved new fees and permitting applications for their events.
2015 legislation added horse and greyhound racing to the Texas Mass Gathering Act which requires certain health and safety regulations for events which draw large crowds. In the case of horse races, an event which will attract, or is expected to attract, at least 100 people falls under those new guidelines.
Kaufman County Fire Marshal and Public Works Director Randy Richards tells inForney.com the commissioners’ action last Friday to approve a new application and fee schedule for mass gathering permits will put horse racing promoters on notice and will help provide county and law enforcement officials with additional enforcement measures which will address ongoing complaints county citizens have made concerning, among other things, traffic, noise, litter, and public safety.
Horse race promoters, who will attract or expected to attract at least 100 people, will now have 45 days prior to an event to file for a mass gathering permit.
The permit requires on-site inspection by the county fire marshal’s office, health inspectors, and the sheriff’s office to confirm compliance with health and safety code regulations such as traffic and crowd control measures, security, first aid, sanitation, emergency vehicle access, electrical and utility code standards, and fire code regulations.
Several hundred people were estimated at a horse race earlier this month at a track off Travis Lane — just north of Kaufman.
In response to complaints, officers with the Kaufman County Sheriff’s Office, Kaufman County Fire Marshal’s Office, and the Texas Department of Public Safety responded to the scene — issuing more than two dozen citations and towing several vehicles.
Travis Lane was impassable by emergency vehicles in several sections and neighbors were unable to leave their driveways — only left to deal with the litter in their yards after the crowds dispersed.
The horse racing track on Travis Lane is one of three known tracks in the county, the other two being on County Road 4075 and FM 3094, according to the Kaufman County Sheriff’s Office.
The act of holding a horse race isn’t illegal, according to the Texas Racing Commission, but, placing wagers during such an event is illegal and requires a license through the commission as well as compliance with a number of other regulations.
In 2012, a horse racing track on County Road 118, off of State Highway 243 east of Kaufman, was raided by federal agents of the Internal Revenue Service, the Texas Department of Public Safety, and the Kaufman County Sheriff’s Office.
In addition to the three horse race tracks, county officials say a horse training facility has also recently requested a permit through the county.
Horse racing promoters seeking a mass gathering permit are also required to, in addition to $900 in filing fees, undergo a public hearing period.
Newly-elected Kaufman County Sheriff Bryan Beavers told commissioners he would ensure proper notification was made to nearby residents when mass gathering permit requests were scheduled for their required public hearings.
“Private residents have organized horse races on their property, which have created public safety, parking and traffic issues,” the sheriff’s department stated yesterday in response to the new guidelines. “We understand these gatherings have been a nuisance for those who live nearby.”
“A hearing before the County Judge will be held to approve or deny the permit. It is our goal to keep citizens informed; the Kaufman County Sheriff’s Office will notify those who reside near the permit location of the hearing ten days prior to the hearing, as it is a public hearing, and we encourage the public to attend and participate in the hearing,” stated the department.