Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
Clear Day 88° Clear

Eye On Boise

Testimony: ‘The appearance of a machine does not change its function’

In continuing testimony this morning on SB 1011, the bill to repeal instant racing in Idaho:

Yvonne “Sam” Sandmire told the senators, “I’m sure many businesses… would love to have revenues from gambling machines save their businesses.” She said she sympathizes with those who have spoken. “I am also a horse lover,” she said. “No matter how passionate everyone is about this industry, these machines are not horse racing. They’re not simulcast racing, which is legal in Idaho. But that’s how it was presented.” She said, “As with many thing related to gambling, the revenue” from instant racing “is huge. ... This is what makes these machines so enticing. … Like it or not, people were duped by the industry, and that’s understandable. … We have always opposed casino style gambling in Idaho, and I would like that not to change.”

Former state Sen. Grant Ipsen of Meridian said, “I’m old enough to remember the days of gambling in Idaho in the 1940s. … I watched a neighbor put his farm through a dollar slot machine. I lost some good friends, some close friends, when they had to move. So if you get to the emotions of these things, we were talking about gambling. I don’t believe this has anything to do with horse racing. The thing I want to talk about is the gambling and the expansion of it that is taking place in Idaho. It has everything to do with gambling, illegal and unconstitutional slot machines and casino-type activities.  … Proponents of these machines named them ‘historical horse racing terminals.’ … Legislators were given misleading information. The machines violate Article 3, Section 20 of the Idaho Constitution.” He said the pitch is to save horse racing from failing in Idaho. “It was failing before,” he said. “Does the state have a responsibility and a right to subsidize a failing industry?”

Sen. Elliot Werk, D-Boise, asked Ipsen if he was referring to this clause in the Constitution, reading it: "No activities permitted by subsection (1)," the section authorizing the lottery and pari-mutuel betting, "shall employ any form of casino gambling including, but not limited to, blackjack, craps, roulette, poker, bacarrat, keno and slot machines, or employ any electronic or electromechanical imitation or simulation of any form of casino gambling." Ipsen said yes.

Steve Laughlin, whose family operates the restaurant at the Double Down Betting Bar, said, “We’ve had to pour our heart and soul into this effort. … Today we have 40 employees and we’re still growing.” He said, “It’s clear to me that the instant horse race terminals were described as in the original legislation and they are one and the same. The appearance of a machine does not change its function. If it was inappropriate for anybody to change the appearance of a thing to make it more attractive, then the entire U.S. cosmetics industry should be bankrupt.” He said, “The issue in front of us today is whether the state will keep its word.”

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.

Follow Betsy online: