BOISE – Off-track betting on simulcasts of horse and dog races could move from the Coeur d’Alene Greyhound Park to the nearby factory outlet center, if a bill now pending in the Legislature succeeds.
Sen. Dick Compton, R-Coeur d’Alene, said Friday that the factory outlet mall would be a natural location for the simulcasting, because of its easy freeway access, if the Greyhound Park were sold or converted to other uses – which Compton said is a possibility.
Only a quarter of the $20 million Greyhound Park facility is used for simulcasting, Compton said. “The rest of the facility isn’t really used,” he added.
The bill, SB 1074, would allow county commissioners and the state Racing Commission to designate a new location for simulcasting in Kootenai County if it moves out of the Greyhound Park. On Friday, the Senate State Affairs Committee voted to amend the bill over concerns about its wording.
Several lawmakers said the wording of Compton’s bill could unintentionally make simulcasts of horse racing illegal if the practice was moved from the Greyhound Park in Post Falls. The current statute that Compton wants to amend says off-track betting on simulcasts of dog races is allowed, but doesn’t directly mention horse races.
“I have significant concerns that there could be a zealot that says dog racing can be allowed but not horse racing,” said Sen. Joe Stegner, R-Lewiston. “If definitions of both of those would be included, the problem wouldn’t go to court.”
“I’m willing to chance that,” Compton said.
Russ Westerberg, a lobbyist for the park’s owners, and officials from the state Racing Commission argued the wording has been in the statute since 1996 and no problems have popped up yet.
“When we issue simulcast licenses, we don’t differentiate between horse and greyhound racing,” said Ardie Noyes, a management assistant at the commission.
Yet, after Stegner and Sen. Bob Geddes, R-Soda Springs, continued to express worries that the statute could be challenged, Compton agreed to send the bill to the amending order, where any senator may offer an amendment to it.
The Greyhound Park, Compton said, brings in $500,000 to different groups every year, including $161,000 to the Racing Commission. Kootenai County gets $12,000 to use for tourism. The park annually hands out $385,000 in salaries as well, the Republican senator said.
Compton and Westerberg said the bill would make sure those funds still come in if the park is sold or converted to other uses.
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