Idaho reviews Instant Racing

Feb 16, 2015 5:10 PM

Instant Racing electronic wagering machines have been growing in popularity in the few states where they have been installed but they also have been the heart of a controversy regarding whether they actually are slot machines.

The machines let people bet on the results of previously run horse races. The machines originated in Arkansas and have spread to other states since.

Recently, their use has come under political debate in Idaho where in 2013 the state’s lawmakers passed a bill approving their use. But, the debate didn’t end there.

Opponents, especially the operators of the Coeur d’Alene tribal casino, argue that not all the facts surrounding the use of these machines were made public, thus the lawmakers were sold a bill of goods.

During a meeting last week, the Idaho Senate State Affairs Commission endorsed legislation that would repeal the law that approved so-called historical horse racing machine wagering.

“I cannot escape the fact that these are electronic simulations of slot machines,” said Democratic Sen. Eliot Werk of Boise, according to the AP’s Kimberlee Kruesi.

“I cannot escape that these machines don’t appear to be allowed under the Idaho Constitution. I sympathize with the impact that this has had on Idaho racing. I cannot escape it,” Werk said.

Three of Idaho’s eight racetracks have installed the machines. The number totals about 250 terminals. They argue that they have invested thousands of dollars to purchase the terminals and are still waiting to turn a profit.

If the law is reversed, they claim, track owners will have to remove the machines by July 1.

“Historical racing in Idaho has passed the tests and satisfied the audits,” said John Sheldon, president of Treasure Valley Racing, which operates Les Bois Park racetrack just outside Boise.

“I urge you to focus on the tests, results and audits provided by the Idaho State Racing Commission…Give us an opportunity to continue working to save the horse racing industry in Idaho,” he added.

Ray Poirier is the longtime executive editor at GamingToday.

Contact Ray at [email protected].