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Idaho state senator wants ISP to conduct instant racing investigation

A state senator from Coeur d’Alene says he thinks the Idaho State Police is the right agency to investigate the legality of slot-like machines known as instant horse racing terminals at the Greyhound Park and Event Center, not the Post Falls Police Department.

Republican Sen. Bob Nonini shared his opinion with Kootenai County Prosecuting Attorney Barry McHugh over the weekend and on Monday acknowledged he had questioned the choice of investigating agency.

“I would think it would be appropriate for the state police to investigate that first, not the city police,” Nonini said in an interview.

The State Racing Commission, which regulates the machines, is a division of the state police, but Nonini said that shouldn’t make a difference. “I don’t see any conflict. They’re all law enforcement,” he said.

McHugh said Monday he asked Post Falls police to handle the investigation, which stems from a complaint in October, because he believes that agency has primary jurisdiction over conduct at Greyhound Park, “and it’s still my position that they’re the appropriate agency.”

He also said he spoke with ISP Capt. Curtis Kastens, who oversees District 1 in North Idaho, and that Kastens agrees Post Falls should handle the investigation.

Asked how he perceived Nonini’s inquiry, McHugh said, “Although it’s somewhat unusual for someone to ask us to change the investigating agency – and that is unusual – I think it comes down to our evaluation in law enforcement as to which agency is appropriate.”

Nonini, whose district includes Post Falls, called McHugh on Saturday morning, after attending Friday’s legislative hearing at which a bill was introduced to repeal the law authorizing the machines. The repeal bill is sponsored by the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, which contends instant racing is an illegal expansion of casino-style gambling outside of Indian reservations.

The investigation may take several more weeks, Post Falls police Chief Scot Haug said.

Nonini said he also emailed McHugh information about how Gaming Laboratories International had rated the instant racing machines, which allow people to wager on historical horse races for as little as a quarter. The Greyhound Park installed 35 of the machines last year with the goal of bringing in new business.

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