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Eye On Boise

Deputy Attorney General Kane: ‘Not the machines that were given to our office to review’

The Senate State Affairs Committee has asked Deputy Attorney General Brian Kane to respond to questions. Sen. Elliot Werk, D-Boise, said there’s “some lack of clarity about the nature of pooled wagering and pari-mutuel,” and asked Kane to address that.

“At the outset, I will let you know that I’m not an expert on these sorts of issues,” Kane said, “but what I can let you know is that if you review the administrative rules for the horse racing commission, they actually go into quite a bit of detail as to what’s required of a pari-mutuel pool, how the pool operates … when you make wager, what information is given to the bettor at that point.” Kane said the other part of Werk’s question was, “Are there other sorts of pooled wagers? And the answer to that is yes. You can have a slot machine pool. You can have a poker pool … a pooled amount taken from the bets that are made.”

Kane said, “The difference between a pari-mutuel wager and some other forms of gambling is that in a pari-mutuel wager, you’re sort of betting against the other folks within the pool. You’re picking who’s going to win within that outcome. And whenever you have that pari-mutuel wager, somebody’s going to win, meaning there’s going to be some horse that wins the race. … If someone makes a bet on that winning horse, they’re going to win. If you compare that with blackjack or a slot machine, when you put your money in, there’s a chance nobody wins.”

As for the specific machines used in instant racing, Kane said, “We were shown machines in 2012 which we reviewed and issued a legal analysis saying that the machines we were shown in 2012, in our estimation, met the requirements for pari-mutuel wagering in Idaho. The machines that have been installed at this point are not the machines that were given to our office to review, so we have not been able to analyze those machines.” Kane said his office has little oversight ability; in most states with gambling, a gambling commission would have that oversight.  

"The machine that we reviewed showed a race – showed a horse race,” he said. “You watched the race and found out if you picked the right one or not. It was a pretty straightforward, simple set-up.”

Kane said in 2008, his office was asked to review whether "virtual horse racing" would be legal in Idaho, and concluded that it wouldn't - it would violate the Idaho Constitution. In 2012, he said, "The approach was narrowed."

He noted that the 2013 law authorized only "historical horse racing." "I don't see any authorization in the code for 'instant racing,'" Kane said. A question for lawmakers is "whether what the Legislature authorized in 2013 is actually what has been installed at this time." He said, "The statute you adopted granted extremely broad authority in rule-making to the horse racing commission."

Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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