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Eye On Boise

‘Instant racing’ machines shut down in Wyoming, after A.G.’s opinion

The operation of slot machine-like “instant racing” betting machines has been shut down in Wyoming, at least temporarily, reports the Lexington Herald-Leader newspaper in Kentucky. Herald-Leader reporter Janet Patton reports that Wyoming Attorney General Peter Michael issued an opinion last week that the base games played on the machines, based on “historical” or past horse races, qualified as pari-mutuel, or pooled, gambling in Wyoming, but the “bonus rounds” included in the games did not. The outcome of those rounds, he held, were determined “by events that are non-parimutuel in nature and based upon total chance.”

You can read Patton’s full story here. She reports that the Wyoming Legislature authorized the machines in 2013, but in the wake of the attorney general’s opinion, they were shut down on Sunday. The state’s pari-mutuel commission has scheduled a meeting for Thursday to consider ways to make the games conform to Wyoming law; a court challenge to the machines also is pending in Wyoming, brought by an anti-gambling group.

The question of the use of a random-number generator and the nature of the machines’ operation was not at issue in Idaho, where concerns were raised that the machines violated the Idaho Constitution’s ban on activities that “employ any electronic or electromechanical imitation or simulation of any form of casino gambling.” The instant racing machines look, sound, and are played like slot machines.

In Idaho, lawmakers voted overwhelmingly this year to rescind their 2013 authorization for the machines, though Idaho’s horse racing industry pushed hard to keep them; lawmakers said the slot-like machines weren’t what they were promised. The industry said profits from the machines could save dwindling live horse racing. Gov. Butch Otter issued a belated veto of the repeal bill, but it was ruled invalid by the Idaho Supreme Court, making the machines now illegal in Idaho.

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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