The future of Formula 1 in Austin, Texas appears to have taken a serious hit when it was revealed Circuit of The Americas lost its state funding.
According to a Wednesday story in The Austin American-Statesman newspaper, Gov. Greg Abbott’s office rejected COTA’s annual application for reimbursement following the 2018 F1 race. Officials in the governor’s office said track representatives failed to meet the deadline for submitting a required human trafficking prevention plan as part of their reimbursement request.
It means the track will forfeit $20 million or more in state funding through the Major Event Reimbursement Program. The state reimbursed COTA $27 million through that program in 2017, $26 million in 2016 and $22.7 million in 2015 for the only F1 race in the United States.
Track officials have said in the past that funding, which has topped $100 million since 2012 according to The Statesman, was critical to the success of the F1 race.
COTA officials had not yet commented to The American-Statesman.
Since it debuted in 2012, Texas has helped subsidize F1, which carries a hefty seven-figure sanction fee.
The American-Statesman also said the governor’s office has paid millions to Texas Motor Speedway for its annual NASCAR race, the 2018 NCAA Final Four and Super Bowl LI. The NTT Data IndyCar Series is set to make its track debut March 22-24.
Payments to COTA are reportedly based on how much economic activity the F1 race generates for Texas and it’s estimated 175,000 attend the race.
According to an October 2018 letter from the governor’s office that was obtained by the American-Statesman, the Circuit Events Local Organizing Committee (CELOC) missed a deadline to submit a required anti-human trafficking report 30 days before the 2018 U.S. Grand Prix this past October. Bryan Daniel, the governor’s executive director of economic development and tourism, wrote that because CELOC failed to meet the deadline, its application for reimbursement had been rescinded.
“In this case, the law is clear that if a human trafficking prevention plan is not submitted 30 days prior to an event, a reimbursement from the Major Events Fund cannot be issued,” Abbott spokesman John Wittman said in an emailed statement. “The State of Texas and COTA have a productive partnership that has had a tremendous economic impact on the city of Austin and the state as a whole, and our office is already working with COTA on next year’s race.
The governor’s office gave preliminary approval for providing state funds for the US Grand Prix on Sept. 24. But after economic development officials there realized they had not received a human trafficking prevention plan, they rescinded approval, the letter said. The plan was due on Sept. 19, but COTA did not submit the plan until Oct. 3.
In a statement on the situation, COTA Executive Vice President Rick Abbott said: “The anti-trafficking plan was on file for other events throughout the year, so it is not a question of implementation. In April of 2018, the Circuit of The Americas operations team developed a human trafficking plan to be included in the Emergency Action Plan (EAP) for the 2018 MotoGP Grand Prix of The Americas. That plan stayed in place throughout the entire 2018 season.
“As the reimbursement for the 2017 USGP was not paid until 10 months after the event, we remain hopeful the 2018 issues can still be resolved. Circuit of The Americas is a private company and does not release financial information.”