BOISE – Two of the three state lawmakers whose district includes the Greyhound Park Event Center in Post Falls said Monday they were surprised and disappointed that the Coeur d’Alene Tribe had canceled its big annual Julyamsh Pow Wow there this summer, amid a dispute over “instant racing” betting machines the center has been operating.
“It’s always been a really great event,” said Sen. Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d’Alene. “Hopefully it gets resolved. I’m not sure if either side will like the outcome.”
He said he’s heard of legislation in the works to do everything from keep the instant racing machines but limit their numbers, to repealing all gambling in Idaho, including the state lottery and tribal gaming.
Rep. Ron Mendive, R-Coeur d’Alene, said he thinks the machines probably are legal, but he’s waiting for more information. “I guess I can see there’s kind of an issue there,” he said. “It’s their decision. We’ll see how this all plays out.”
New Rep. Don Cheatham, R-Post Falls, said he didn’t know the pow wow had been canceled.
The event has been held annually in Post Falls for 17 years; it’s the largest outdoor pow wow in the Northwest and among the largest such events in the nation, with 1,600 participants and up to 30,000 spectators over three days.
The tribe, along with three other Idaho tribes, has objected to the spread of the “instant racing” machines, which they contend are illegal slot machines. Under a gaming compact with the state and a citizen initiative, tribes operate gaming machines in their on-reservation casinos, but are strictly limited on the number and location.
The racing machines were authorized through legislation passed in 2013 that legalized betting on broadcasts of “historical” horse races, or races that have been run in the past. Some lawmakers say they were duped, not realizing that what they were voting on would bring something very much like slot machines to Idaho racetracks.
Years ago, the Coeur d’Alenes applied to the state for permission to open a casino at the Greyhound Park, but then-Gov. Phil Batt turned them down, saying gaming should stay on the reservation.
The new machines are operating at three locations, the Greyhound Park, Les Bois Park near Boise, and the Double Down Betting Bar in Idaho Falls.
The Post Falls Police are currently investigating whether the machines at the Greyhound Park are legal or not. They were approved by the state Racing Commission, an arm of the Idaho State Police. But the commission’s executive director abruptly retired last week, after the Idaho Statesman newspaper reported that he’d been a paid lobbyist for a company operating the instant racing machines at six locations in Wyoming while working as a regulator in Idaho.
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