March 14, 1996 in Nation/World

Senate Oks Bill To Ban Dog Racing Lawmakers Admit Mistake, But Only After Track Fails

Betsy Z. Russell Eric Torbenson Contr Staff writer

Dog racing will be declared illegal in Idaho if Gov. Phil Batt signs a bill approved by the Senate on Wednesday.

Batt has indicated he favors the legislation, which makes special allowance for the Greyhound Park at Post Falls to continue to hold gambling on simulcasts of horse and dog races from elsewhere - but not to hold live dog races.

Under the bill, however, simulcasting at Greyhound Park would end after three years.

The Senate voted unanimously for the bill, which earlier had passed the House.

“Dog racing never has caught on in North Idaho,” Sen. Mary Lou Reed, D-Coeur d’Alene, told the Senate. The Legislature made a mistake in 1988 when it voted to make dog racing legal, Reed said. “This particular bill will permit me to clear my conscience.” Competition from other gambling pursuits and a growing antiracing sentiment doomed the Greyhound Park. Its Alabama-based ownership lost more than $21 million over seven years at the track, which closed in December.

“There were a lot of promises that dog racing seemed to hold,” Reed said. But, she said, “This was no field of dreams. They did build it, and the folks didn’t come.”

Dog racing opponent Lloyd Moser of Post Falls cheered the bill’s progression to Batt’s desk. Moser had headed an animal rights group that protested abuses at the Greyhound Park.

“I think this was the right thing to do,” he said. “It was long overdue. We only wish we could have gotten the simulcasting stopped as well.”

Simulcasting contributes to dog abuses elsewhere, Moser said. His group would have preferred it be ended at Greyhound Park as soon as possible.

“We fear that the simulcasting folks will come back next year and try to expand it to other areas of Idaho,” he said. Les Bois, the Boise-based racing concern that runs the simulcasting at Greyhound Park, might come to the Legislature in three years and ask to keep operating, Moser said.

But the Post Falls park still could continue with gambling on simulcasts of horse races.

Sen. Sheila Sorensen, R-Boise, said the clause for the Greyhound Park was important, in part because Boise’s Les Bois Park horse racetrack has a three-year lease on the North Idaho park to run simulcasting there.

“It is important to help that Post Falls facility stay open, not only for the economy of the area, but also keeping in mind the lease agreement,” Sorensen said.

The Post Falls simulcasting generates $15 million a year in bets, she said.

Reed said the Post Falls park is “a very fine facility,” and allowing for it in the legislation will “keep alive the possibility that once again, horse racing will return to North Idaho” in the future.

, DataTimes The following fields overflowed: BYLINE = Betsy Z. Russell Staff writer Staff writer Eric Torbenson contributed to this report.

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