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Eye On Boise

Senate panel passes instant racing repeal bill, with just one ‘no’ vote

The Senate State Affairs Committee has voted in favor of SB 1011, to repeal instant racing in Idaho; that sends the bill to the full Senate for a vote. If it passes there and in the House and receives the governor’s signature, the machines now installed at three locations in Idaho would become illegal as of July 1. There was only one “no” vote, from acting Sen. Kimberly Johnson of Caldwell, who is filling in for Sen. Patti Anne Lodge, R-Huston. Johnson disclosed earlier that she has a potential conflict of interest because she is involved in the horse industry.

Sen. Bart Davis, R-Idaho Falls, moved to send the bill to the full Senate with a recommendation that it pass; Senate President Pro-Tem Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, seconded the motion. Sen. Chuck Winder, R-Boise, offered a substitute motion to hold the bill in committee and seek more information about whether the current instant racing machines are legal or not. It was seconded by Johnson, but the substitute motion failed on a voice vote.

Hill said, “I have some real doubts that this qualifies as pari-mutuel betting, but you know, that is just not the issue here to me. The issue goes back to the Constitution. And the Constitution is not ambiguous here. It’s not hard to understand, it’s not hard to read.”

Sen. Todd Lakey, R-Nampa, said, “I do feel that what was represented is not what was installed. … The focus of the machines is not the horse race. … Call it creative marketing, call it whatever you want… You cannot under the Constitution make whatever you’re doing look like a slot machine.”

“I’d just like to really thank all the people that have come out,” said Sen. Elliot Werk. “I truly understand the angst in the horse-racing community and the difficulties that we’re facing and I appreciate everybody’s testimony that came in. … This is one of those issues that there’s no winning when you’re sitting on this side of the table. If we allow it to move forward, are we violating our Constitution. If we don’t allow it to move forward and repeal the statute, there are impacts in the community.”

He said two years ago, lawmakers anticipated that the machines would be like those the Attorney General reviewed. “I cannot escape the fact that these are electronic simulations of slot machines, regardless of anything else that’s going on,” Werk said. “The Constitution really seems to dictate that these machines are not legal. I would encourage the industry to come back and we can work on … and see if we can get machines that comport and comply with our Constitution that can help the industry move forward.”

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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