“Instant” Horse Racing?

One highlight of this past week was the vigorous hour-and-a-half debate on the floor of the Senate over bill S1011, which repeals legislation from 2013 that allows para mutuel betting on previously run horse race machines, also called “historic” or “instant” horse racing. The debate was interesting.  A dozen or so Senators stood, one after another, to express their opinions on this difficult topic.  Here are some of the main points of contention: –Nearly every Senator who spoke felt “duped” or mislead by what promoters told them in 2013.  The machines described by promoters were to feature “historic” horse racing, which would help save the failing horse industry in Idaho.  The reality, however, is something quite different:  The machines look and  and play like Vegas slot machines, with a big screen featuring spinning wheels, bars, cherries, etc..  The “horse racing” screen on the machines is extremely small, about 2″x3″, tucked in a corner, and shows only the last 4 seconds of a race. –The Idaho Constitution clearly states that no para mutuel gaming shall look like or simulate casino games such slot machines.  There’s absolutely no way around the fact that the current machines  simulate slot machines.  No one even argues this point.  And, to complicate the matter even more, the Idaho Racing Commission, which was supposed to supervise this process, was part of the problem rather than the solution, so that’s something else that needs attention. –Proponents of the 2013 law claim it’s unfair that the Indian Casinos, particularly the CdA Tribe, were pushing for the repeal of this law.  Yes, that’s true, and yes they are competitors.  But the Tribes are granted the ability to have gaming under Federal laws and a special Compact agreement with the State of Idaho many years ago.  It’s a whole different situation and must be considered / reviewed separately. So, when the time came to vote on the repeal of the bill last Tuesday, I had a tough choice.  I’m a big believer in free markets and business, but I see this as a matter of honesty and integrity in dealing with government.  The proponents of these machines knew about the language of the Idaho Constitution but went forward with installing these machines anyway. It’s a matter of holding folks accountable, and with no other effective mechanism in place, I voted in favor of the repeal. The repeal bill passed the Senate 25-9.  It will now go to the House State Affairs Committee and, if it passes there, on to the full House for final approval before the Governor’s signature.  Perhaps the proponents of these machines will offer to make substantial changes and follow their original plan–not sure if it would help at this point, but it’s worth a try. (Sorry I don’t have a photo of the machines to post, I left it in Boise and am home for the weekend now, but you can look them up online, if you’d like.)

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