Idaho Tribe Proposes Legislation Banning Instant Racing

The Coeur d'Alene tribe recently proposed legislation that would ban instant racing in Idaho, even though it was approved by the state in 2013 as a way to raise money to help the horse industry by expanding simulcasting. House and Senate committees recently held hearings on the measure.

In Idaho, both the House and Senate State Affairs Committees are working to ban instant racing. The Senate panel recently unanimously voted to introduce legislation that would repeal the 2013 measure authorizing the machines. The previous day, the House committee questioned the machines’ legality.

The Coeur d’Alene tribe, which owns the Coeur d’Alene Casino Spa, proposed the legislation and along with three other tribes sent a letter to Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter and Attorney General Lawrence Wasden demanding that the state ban the machines.

Currently instant racing is available at Greyhound Park Event Center in Post Falls, Les Bois Park racetrack just west of Boise and the Double Down Betting Bar and Grill in Idaho Falls, associated with but not located at the Sandy Downs racetrack.

Senate President Pro-Tem Brent Hill said, “It is concerning to me that any track can assign this right to any location they want, which in my opinion was not the intent of the law. There’s been a lot of talk around the Capitol, and people are concerned.”

Those concerns, Hill said, are that the instant racing terminals violate the state constitution’s ban on slot machines. Also, he noted, the 2013 law was promoted as a way to raise money to help Idaho’s horse industry through expanding simulcasting.

Following the House committee hearing, Frank Lamb, executive director of the Idaho Racing Commission, said, “Well, I certainly felt the sting of the arrows. Because it is parimutuel wagering, we can regulate it. If it were not, we couldn’t. We’re just going to continue to do our job and try to enforce the laws and the rules as best we can.” The commission considers instant racing machines to be legal because bettors place wagers against other bettors, not the house; also, the machines encourage live racing events since a portion of the profit goes toward purses.

Former state legislator Bill Roden, representing the Coeur d’Alene tribe, said, “Testimony will show how they operate, they look very, very much like slot machines.” He added the tribe did not oppose instant racing in 2013 because they trusted promises that the terminals were not slot machines.