Nothing Is Better Than A Bad Something

arace1Ada County Commishes said Tuesday “all bets are off” when it comes to selecting an operator of the Les Bois Park horse race track.

Stung by past operators at the facility, they appear to have done some homework this time and didn’t like the results. Commishes said both proposals were bad bets for the use of Ada County’s multimillion-dollar, 64-acre Les Bois Park facility. Spirit Valley Raceway proposed an annual lease payment of $50,000 in exchange for use of the property. Alabama-Idaho, Inc./The Greene Group, Inc. proposed paying the county an annual lease rate of only $12,000. Under the previous lease agreement with Capital Racing the lease payment to Ada County was $300,000 a year.

Throughout the course of the due diligence process, Ada County staff “identified several issues that raised concerns about both applicant’s current and past business operations.” Put bluntly, these dudes didn’t have stellar reputations.

Spirit Valley Raceway
–Company owner and its financial backer do not have any horse racing experience
–Company owner has admitted to a violation of the Alcohol Beverage Control laws for his operation of another establishment
–Company owner has a criminal background

Alabama-Idaho, Inc./Green Group, Inc.
–The companyÕs nonprofit corporation, the Greene Idaho Foundation, has been the subject of an enforcement action taken by the Idaho State Lottery Commission
–The Greene Idaho Foundation admitted to a violation of state law regarding its bingo operation in Post Falls, Idaho
–The Greene Group, Inc. informed Ada County Commissioners that it has undergone another audit by the Idaho State Lottery Commission. The Board has requested results from the Lottery Commission once the audit is complete.

So it’s back to the starting gate as the Commishes invite new proposals while potential operators jockey for the rail position.

Comments & Discussion

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  1. Did they ask the Mafia yet? Those guys know how to run a track.

  2. Surely those lease proposals included some sort of revenue or gate or food/beverage sharing in addition to the pitiful rent offering. Didn’t they? If not….holy cow what a joke. Hope our citizen servents at the County didn’t spend too much time analyzing them!!!

  3. Maybe there’s a clue here. Horse racing doesn’t seem to be attracting a lot of operators you’d want babysitting the kids. It’s not about horses, it’s about gambling. I’m not a prude, but I wonder why local government should be involved in this kind of enterprise in the first place.

  4. You got it Rick, at least partially. Horse racing is primarily about gambling, particularly the OTB simulcasting which is run year around. The other proponents are similar to rodeo fans, antiquated cowboys who like to pretend they’re living in Lonesome Dove or the Ponderosa and recall the good ‘ol days, which actually ended way before their great granddaddy passed on.

    For the first group, if you want to gamble, do like I do and take a leisurely drive down to Jackpot for the weekend. For the second, face up to it, this is the 21st century and Boise is a city; if you want to ride horses (or watch them), drive (or move) out to the Owyhees and have a ball.

  5. You are absolutely correct Rick!
    It is, in fact, about gambling. While we are addressing the ponies, why don’t we start a little “loan sharking” with parking fines. And as long as we are in the game anyway, let’s turn some of those massage parlors into real money makers! And all that good booze from the state? Let’s just put a fake tag on it and sell it ourselves! So you see Rick, it is either us or the Justice Department! (and we all know how crooked those guys at Justice are)
    If you think this is a pain, just wait till you find out how much the county will lose with no racing. You see, without a live race schedule, there is no off track betting either. Come fair time we may just have a new “hole in the ground” owned by the county this time!

  6. I like Les Bois, and I like racing. I take my kids in the summer and I wish they could find someone who was reputable (yes, even gamblers can be reputable) and operate a nice, clean track with good food and beverage. It did used to exist. This is really sad.

  7. A lot of the anti-racing comments seem to come from people who know nothing about horse racing; I wonder whether they’ve even ever been to the races.

    Yep, there’s gambling (though not in league with the stock markets as far as possible losses), there’s drinking, though less than at a bar where there’s little to do but chug it down; yep, there are some sleazy people involved sometimes, but I doubt it’s any higher percentage than in most businesses — certainly less than in Enron, AIG, the now-defunct M-K (top-level folks), and certainly less that in politics.

    The racehorse owners, trainers, grooms, jockeys, etc. do it more for the love of the game and the animals than for the money — it’s rare that any of them make a profit, especially at a small track like Boise.

    But, now those folks are out of work, the owners have horses that bring no income, but still have to try to feed and house them, take care of vet bills, shoeing, etc. I wonder what will happen to the horses when the owners run out of money. There’s no market for them when there’s no racing, and prices on horses of all kinds are down, like prices for houses, etc.

    Vets, feed suppliers, equipment suppliers (Jim Flynn’s comes to mind), etc., lose their main customer base.

    And the county gets no rent from the track!

    Seems like a lose-lose situation.

  8. Gordon Has it About Right
    Apr 21, 2009, 10:06 pm

    The track is not going away. And it doesn’t generate any revenue when it is idle. Maybe you like gambling. Maybe not. However, even a little rent is better than none. Keeping the place idle is the worst deal of all.

  9. If we don’t have horse racing this year at Les Bois Park, the County will utilize the facilities for other purposes. For additional information about this whole situation, please see

  10. I have been to the races. And it’s fun once in a while. And if it were profitable we wouldn’t go through this exercise every few years. The County should not be in the entertainment business.

  11. If only all landlords in this town would be as discriminating as the Ada Commissioners.

    Here’s an example, the landlords down the street, in their haste to get the place rented, took on a tenant with 2 large dogs. 2 large dogs in an 800SF apartment with no fenced yard. After a year when the tenant moved out the damage was extraordinary. Not only did the carpet have to be replaced, so did the flooring which had rotted from constant wetness from dog urine.

    Damn right you should be careful who you rent to.

    EDITOR NOTE–Boisecynic has just earned the “segue of the year.” (For you non library types that’s “an uninterrupted transition…”)

  12. Gordon has it wrong....
    Apr 22, 2009, 1:04 pm

    Well, I do know something about racing. I grew up (literally) in the thoroughbred industry. Some points:

    1) Lets be realistic, the current track and stable set up is an EYE SORE compared to reputable (and I use that term very loosely) race tracks. Regardless of your pro or anti-racing stance, these facilities hardly are a stellar example of quality. In fact they have more in common with slums in Juarez, IMHO.

    2) If you truly want to introduce your children to horsemanship and animals, the racetrack is not a place to do it. Try horseback riding lessons (English or Western) or take them to the Zoo. Having seen the facilities and having been around horses all my life, I don’t get a good feeling for the long term welfare of the horses or their grooms and hotwalkers either ….).

    3) From a business and liability point of view, Some rent (and this paltry sum barely qualifies) is not better than nothing if it leaves the facilities in even worse shape, leaves the BOCC holding the bag for unfulfilled contracts, or creates liability. Kudos for the county for doing the right thing.

    4) Vet and Feed Suppliers have far more customer base than just the track, which is seasonal and ….when you get down to it, not that many horses…compared to whats in Ada County alone, much less the Treasure Valley. Lets face it, Idaho is still predominantly Agro and Ranch.

    One final note: if this deal went bad, then Gordon would be lambasting the BOCC for dealing with these “businessmen” to begin with….

    My opinion? Raze or rebuild the slumms to attract more reputable Equistrian Events…
    Turn the stadium into an outdoor amplitheater for concerts, etc. (Why should the high dollar concerts and performaces go to Canyon County?)

    And keep using the rest of the fairgrounds for ….whatever its currently used for.

  13. GHIW:
    1) I can’t imagine what you’re comparing the track with. The Triple Crown tracks?
    Have you been at the other tracks in Idaho, or the small ones in other Western states?
    Les Bois looks like the Taj Mahal compared to them.
    Yes, the barns are rather tacky, and it’s up to the users of each stall to repair, paint or whatever it needs, so not all of them do a lot. But the slums in Juarez? Whew, that’s really a stretch.
    2) I didn’t say anything about using it to introduce kids to horses, although I do see quite a few younguns who really enjoy it (even though they can’t gamble and drink beer or booze).
    3) Interesting that everybody keeps comparing the current rent proposals with the rent that helped run the previous group off. Now compare it with the three or four before the commishes multiplied it by a large number to charge Capitol Racing waaayyy more than the previous operators. That might clarify some of the problem. And, no, each racing season does not leave the facilities worse; each year, at least some improvements are made.
    4) Yes, vet and feed suppliers have more customers, but to say the track is seasonal doesn’t compute — those horses have to be fed, doctored and otherwise taken care of 365 days a year (if you grew up with horses, I should think you would know that!)
    And, no; if the deal went bad, I would not be lambasting the BOCC for dealing with these “businessmen” to begin with. I would be saying, “Well, at least they tried.”

    And, FYI, the track grandstands are used for seating for various concerts, etc., between racing seasons.

  14. It appears that if running a track for the purpose of gambling in Ada County is not economically viable then perhaps the land could be better used in some other way. May I suggest a green lawnmower sales facility. We could move the mayors office to the new city endorsed site and the Mayor could moonlight, selling mowers on the side. He could give the city a break on his salary and subsidize it with meaningful green efforts.

  15. Paul:
    If by “green lawnmowers,” you mean ones that don’t drink petroleum products and belch smog, yeah, there are scores of those at the track when it’s operating.
    The stalls are filled with lawnmowers that not only mow, but they compost the clippings and eject them as organic fertilizer.

    How’s that for “green”??!!!!??!

  16. How about a Ted Nugent concert at the track once a month. The fan base is huge in Boise and it will draw tons of money from the nearby county fan base. Combine it with mega gun shows at the fairgrounds. Idahoans never get tired of the Nuge!

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