State Racing Commissioner Jim Hammond, a former state senator from Post Falls, said today that the Racing Commission had “very little discussion” yesterday when it unanimously approved a moratorium on all new “instant racing” machines and locations in Idaho. “The appointing authority for the board asked that we do this, so we did it,” Hammond said, referring to Gov. Butch Otter. “It was just that simple and straightforward.”
When Otter vetoed SB 1011, the bill to outlaw slot machine-like instant racing machines, on April 3, he also sent a letter to the Racing Commission, directing it to impose the moratorium “as soon as legally possible.” There are now legal questions about the validity of that veto, though no court challenge has yet been filed.
In his veto message, Otter also called on lawmakers to join with him to appoint a “special outside investigator as soon as possible to assess the legality of machines used at every facility that now conducts historical racing.” Asked today where that stands, Otter’s press secretary, Jon Hanian, said it’s “still in the works.”
Hammond said the commission also has given the Double Down Betting Bar & Grill in Idaho Falls a 10-day extension to show it has county approval or lose its license to operate the instant racing machines. The betting bar is an off-track location affiliated with the Sandy Downs Racetrack near Idaho Falls.
Hammond, who noted that his employer, the city of Coeur d’Alene, backed the repeal bill – he’s the city administrator – said he isn’t taking any position on the instant racing issue. “And quite frankly, we shouldn’t, as a commission, anyway,” he said. “We’re not there to espouse or advocate for a particular view on that. We’re just there to administer the pari-mutuel or the horse racing based on what the Legislature approves. So I’m fine with whatever gets decided here.”