BOISE – The head of Idaho’s agency that regulates horse racing has retired following scrutiny of possible conflicts of interest surrounding his consulting work out of state.
Frank Lamb’s retirement announced Friday was effective immediately, said Teresa Baker, spokeswoman for the Idaho State Police, which oversees the Idaho Racing Commission.
Baker said he announced his retirement months ago but stayed on to help with hiring a replacement and getting a new leader trained.
“He was going to stay for (the legislative) session, but after the added scrutiny this week and with what’s going on with everything else, he retired from the racing commission,” Baker said.
The Associated Press attempted to contact Lamb on Friday, but a phone number provided was no longer in service.
Earlier this week, the Idaho Statesman reported that Lamb had been working as a consultant for a Wyoming company that operates live, simulcast and instant horse racing.
In 2013, Lamb testified in support of legalizing instant horse racing before Idaho lawmakers while he was also a registered lobbyist in Wyoming.
That same year, instant horse racing machines became legal in Idaho and Wyoming.
Roughly 250 instant horse racing machines have been installed throughout Idaho since the law was passed. They resemble slot machines, with animations and music. Bettors are wagering on past races, but the horse names are unknown before they place their bets. The machines only show the last few seconds of the race, and payouts are instant. Racing officials say gamblers aren’t betting against the house but a pool of other gamblers.
The Idaho State Police did not see a problem with Lamb being the agency’s director and a lobbyist in Wyoming, Baker said. “We want experts in that field,” she said.
Lamb has also been in the middle of defending the slotlike machines, known as instant racing, in front of Idaho lawmakers.
Legislation is proposed to repeal the statute that allowed instant racing to be legal in Idaho, with some Idaho lawmakers claiming they were misled about how the betting machines would work.
Lamb told the Idaho Statesman he was an unpaid consultant for Wyoming Downs LLC prior to becoming Idaho Racing Commission director in 2012. Wyoming Downs began paying him for his services about six months ago. Wyoming Downs is a private company that operates live, simulcast and instant horse racing in Wyoming.
Four Idaho tribes have opposed the legalization of the instant racing machines. Meanwhile, Post Falls police have launched a criminal investigation into whether the machines are slot machines; the Idaho Constitution bans slot machines and slot imitations.
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