The Idaho Supreme Court has determined that the state has to pay the Coeur d’Alene Tribe a little more than half of the legal fees they requested after besting Idaho in a battle over slot-like machines competing with reservation gaming. The machines are best known as instant racing or historical racing machines and were the focus of a legal battle in the western state earlier this year.
Idaho’s governor vetoed a bill outlawing the devices but the court determined he did not return it to the Senate within a statutory time line which allowed the bill to go into law without his signature. The tribe sued and prevailed which caused all of the slot-like machines to go dark, effectively killing competition the tribe said was illegal in the first place.
Chief Justice Jim Jones argued that the amount granted, $57,000 of the $97,000 requested was still far too high, saying there was no trial to cover and that the opposing parties only spent an hour in front of the court.
“Perhaps I understate the issue when I assert that anybody with five fingers and a calendar can determine whether a veto is timely returned; it is not, however, understated by much,” Jones wrote in his dissenting opinion. “It is inconceivable to me how anybody could expend almost $100,000 briefing and arguing that issue. I would extend my limits of ‘reasonableness’ to a maximum of attorney fees of $25,000.”
The issue of legal fees was before the court because the Attorney General’s office said the tribe was not entitled to them as they missed a 14 day filing deadline. The veto at the center of the issue missed a five-day window of opportunity.
Horse racing official in the state have said that live horse racing is endangered and will likely cease at the state’s only commercial race track without the added revenue of the machines. The governor has vowed to fight for the industry and seeks regulation of the devices. Slot machines are illegal in Idaho except for those found on Indian reservations.
The instant racing devices were located at Les Bois Park in Boise, Greyhound Park in Post Falls (a few miles from the tribe’s casino) and at an off track betting parlor in another corner of the state.