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Idaho Senate Panel Votes To Repeal ‘Instant Racing’

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Jessica Robinson
/
Northwest News Network
An Idaho 'instant racing' machine.

A panel in the Idaho Senate has voted to undo the 2013 decision that allowed so-called “instant horse racing” machines. Now the bill goes before the full Senate.

Lawmakers say the devices appear to violate the state constitution.  

More than 200 machines have been installed, including several dozen at the Greyhound Park and Event Center in Post Falls.

The manufacturer told lawmakers they are not slot machines, in part because they’re based on historical horse races.

But Republican Sen. Brent Hill noted Idaho’s Constitution prohibits the “electronic or electromechanical imitation or simulation” of slots.

“The constitution is not ambiguous here," Hill said.

That wasn’t the only legal doubt. Members of the House State Affairs Committee also questioned whether the instant racing machines that have been installed qualify as “pari-mutuel” games under Idaho law since players in the pool are not betting on the same horse race.

A lawyer from the Idaho Attorney General’s office told lawmakers the office reviewed machines in 2012, but, “the machines that have been installed at this point are not the machines that were given to our office to review.”

The machines were allowed to help Idaho’s struggling horse industry. Breeders, jockeys, trainers and track operators urged lawmakers not to reverse course. 

“We’ve expanded our breeding operation," said breeder Mark Brown in American Falls. "We’ve invested in higher quality mares. We’re keeping more mares.”

The head of Les Bois Park near Boise said the track could be forced to close if the bill passes the full legislature.

The Coeur d’Alene Tribe, which operates a casino in north Idaho, brought the bill before the legislature.