City Government

Horse Race Slots Face Constitutional Challenge

The bid by a group to “preserve the horse racing industry” may be galloping toward a constitutional challenge that is anything but a sure bet.



Despite legislation that says otherwise, there is a valid argument over the definition of what constitutes a SLOT MACHINE or CASINO GAMBLING–both specifically prohibited under the Idaho Constitution.

Ada County Commishes are negotiating a lease agreement with Treasure Valley Racing to determine if instant racing will be allowed at Les Bois Park and under what terms. At a meeting Tuesday both proponents and opponents were heard.

It all boils down to the current proprietors of Les Bois Park claiming they are losing money operating the track and Turf Club. Plenty of businesses lose money, but not many are able to do it at a publicly owned facility and then ask for help. They claim the only way to stay in the running is with “historical racing delivered on video terminals.” Most people call those slot machines.

Garden City Council is the primary opponent at this point, concerned about increased crime and traffic at the county-owned venue which is surrounded by corporate Garden City–which ironically was created so slot machine gambling could survive in 1949 when Boise outlawed slots.

This debate is barely out of the starting gate, but the high roller is likely to be Garden City when it comes to having cash to pay lawyers. Their only task will be to convince a judge or jury the definition of gambling and slots includes a machine that takes your money while you watch a tiny video of a race with a pre determined outcome.

Here is the CONSTITUTION applicable section:

Section 20. GAMBLING PROHIBITED. (1) Gambling is contrary to public policy and is strictly prohibited except for the following:
a. A state lottery which is authorized by the state if conducted in conformity with enabling legislation; and
b. Pari-mutuel betting if conducted in conformity with enabling legislation; and
c. Bingo and raffle games that are operated by qualified charitable organizations in the pursuit of charitable purposes if conducted in conformity with enabling legislation.
(2) No activities permitted by subsection (1) shall employ any form of casino gambling including, but not limited to, blackjack, craps, roulette, poker, bacarrat, keno and slot machines, or employ any electronic or electromechanical imitation or simulation of any form of casino gambling.
(3) The legislature shall provide by law penalties for violations of this section.

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. I can understand why people may consider these devices slot machines. The speed of play can match any Nevada slot machine.

    If the promoters really consider them to be historical race devices to mimic a real race day, why not limit the players to ten (10) “races” timed twenty minutes apart. Like a really slow day at Les Bois races. Time to study the horses and the track conditions before betting. Players would be allowed multiple bets the same as they can with “real” racing.

    Somehow, I do not think that this will be attractive to the operators who want to “save” horse racing in Idaho.

  2. You can drink beer at a BSU football tailgater, but not at any other tailgater at BSU. You can gamble on the lottery or bingo, but not slots or blackjack. You can gamble on Wall St., but not at the racetrack. What does it say about our wise (sarcasm intended) overlords when ideas and laws are inconsistently applied? Is is really right for arrogant legislators to impose their vision of morality on everyone else, when no harm is being done? What about our right to be left alone, as long as we are not harming others? The premise underlying all of this is a fundamental lack of belief in freedom itself. Ironic that our Idaho Constitution and our legislature stands for such things isn’t it?

  3. Send in the SWAT with their new overly aggressive multi-million dollar assault vehicle to stop these criminals!!!!
    they would for anyone else playing poker at a house…

  4. How about just plain close the facility and raze it. Seems to be an ongoing headache, money drain and just exactly how many does this benefit anyway?

    As I understand it, the facilities are “crumbling” and may cost the taxpayers more trying to settle a lawsuit than it would to just condemn the place and have it torn down and then consider a bigger and better facility.

    Without addressing the findings of the fairgrounds study or even do some major upgrades I wonder if there will be an event like the one at HARA Arena in Dayton, OH. I case you don’t know about that one – Basically the bathrooms at the annual Ham Radio Convention were abruptly closed and there was a backflow of sewage into the building and parking lot.

  5. Why not just sell the land to the highest bidder and let the developers build some tax revenue generating housing and commercial properties.

    I could never figure out the attraction to horse racing. I went a few times, placed a few bets and actually won a quinella. I found horse racing a pretty boring experience and could not figure out why everyone was there.

    Here’s another suggestion: Move the Western Idaho Fair to the Idaho Center once the current fairgrounds are gone.

  6. Move the Western Idaho State Fair to Nampa? My guess is that Ada county would just love to lose all the income to Canyon county…..

  7. costaprettypenny
    Nov 28, 2013, 12:59 pm

    Too bad more people were not at the County Commissioners Hearing, because again the Statesman’s article was sorely missing in detail.
    The evening started out with the racing ownership group explaining their proposal. They are all local business men and women. They even had a couple men from other race tracts that have had Historical betting in place for a number of years. These guys made short presentations and offered to answer any questions, there were none, not from the commissioners or the audience.

    The Legislator who sponsored the enabling legislation presented her research and rational, she was very impressive. She even went into detail as to how Legislative Services has bills on line for all affected parties to view and follow. Garden City did not follow the legislation as it was going through the legislative process by either asking questions or commenting.

    Carlos Bilbao, legislator from Emmett even asked the Attorney General for an opinion as to its legality, the legislation was determined legal. The legislation has been vetted.

    Garden City’s comments, presented by the Mayor were weak. The perceived issues they had written to the Commissioners about, the increased traffic, safety/security and EMS response times were all answered. The Commissioners had an Ada County Sherriff’s deputy, a representive of the Hwy District and an EMS manager to testify as to the cities concerns. They said that during the Western Idaho Fair and the Music Festivals, when there were upwards of 85,000 people at the Fair Grounds and that is when their agencies experienced most of their issues. When asked directly, ACHD, the Sherriff officer or the EMT manager said they could not see any issues that they could not handle relative to their services.

    The short presentation by the gentleman as to gambling addition was weak, especially since it sounded like he has devoted his life to the subject, too bad, because he was passionate about the subject. This is a discussion as to personal responsibility, is it government’s responsibility to protect us from ourselves? That discussion will go on forever.

    The lady who said the Fair Grounds were less than good neighbors. The Fair Grounds have been there since 1966. In 1966 there were no houses on the north side of the river, so she bought her house after the Fair Ground was established.

    Then there was the horse trainer/owner from eastern Idaho that said in the last two racing seasons he and his family have spent over $35 thousand dollars in and around Garden City. He said there has to be major economic impacts to the city and surrounding area because of horse racing. The gentleman also said that if the race purse pay-out is not increased he cannot afford to come back.

    What I saw from the ownership group’s presentation, they have explored every avenue to increase revenue; they have done their research and seen what five other states have done. Now they are ready to proceed.

    In my opinion the opposition’s case could have been more professional and coordinated. A gentleman next to me leaned over and said “It just sound like the city just wants a piece of the action.” I said, “There first has to be some action to get a piece of!”
    Let’s move on

  8. I’m one of those people that could care less if the horse racing goes away in Idaho. But on the other hand I know many people that love the racing and love to go.
    But I also feel the same way about the lottery. You want to buy a ticket… help yourself but no thank you for me.

    I have been to Hot Spring Arkansas and they have the instant racing. It is really nothing more than Poker machines. Some folks will blow there money on instant racing… some won’t. Some folks go to Jack pot… some don’t.

    I think the big lie that is told is that Horse racing or lottery tickets or taxes on booze it a way to cut taxes. Sure hasn’t worked that way for Idaho… or for Arkansas.

  9. There are too many self-righteous people who want to impose their beliefs on others.

    All forms of gambling should be legal throughout the state.

    Let’s party!

  10. The government will always see their role to legislate our decision making, so long as the government continues to see itself as the solution to our bad decisions.

    Gamble too much, the gov’t will let you file bankruptcy and get a fresh start.

    Loose your house, the gov’t will put you up in subsidized housing.

    Won’t work, gov’t will feed you, give you unemployment, and pay for your school.

    Want a free phone, gov’t will give you a cell phone and minutes.

    Most other countries allow for natural consequences, not laws, to dictate much of people’s behavior.

    Gambling should be legal, and those who gamble beyond their means to recreationaly lose should be called idiots, not victims, and be forced to live with the consequences of their decisions.

    The government, which runs their own lottery and liquor dispensary has no moral or ethical standing to oppose legalized gambling.

  11. My Two Cents
    Dec 2, 2013, 1:12 pm

    You sound like it is news that the folks operating the racetrack are losing money. The folks before them lost money, and the folks before them! And Ada County took a hit both times. The current operators knew exactly what they were doing when they took over. Why is everyone shocked that they’re not making any money? Frankly, why does anyone even care? It is yet another private enterprise inappropriately using the public arena to make (or try to make) a profit.

Get the Guardian by email

Enter your email address: