Thursday the Idaho Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Coeur d’Alene Tribe and voided the governor’s veto of a bill outlawing instant or historical racing machines in the state with immediate effect. Governor Butch Otter said he vetoed the bill, which was passed by a super-majority in both houses, on a Saturday, within the five-day constitutionl limits – however it wasn’t entered into the Senate Journal until Monday morning. The court ruled the veto invalid. Secretary of State, Lawerence Denney certified the bill into law today.
Idaho State Police are reportedly working with locations in the state that offer the slot-like machines on how best to end the practice and stay within the new law.
Justice Daniel Eismann had scathing words for Deputy Attorney General, Brian Kane. “The deputy attorney general would apparently have us believe that the governor timely returned the original of the bill to some phantom senator, who gave the bill back to the governor, and then the governor later returned the original of the bill to the Senate Pro Tempore. There are certainly no facts supporting that fantasy,” Eismann wrote.
Racing officials have repeatedly stated that revenue from the racing machines is critical to a continued live racing industry. 200 of the machines are located at Les Bois Park, Idaho’s only commercial race track. Operators there spent about $4 million on the gaming terminals and upgrades to their Turf Club. The operators informed employees several months ago that if the ban went into effect the race park would be forced to close.
Treasure Valley Racing President John Sheldon said in a statement that, “Treasure Valley Racing is obviously extremely disappointed in the court’s ruling,” he added, “It comes on the heels of a 32-day live race schedule at Les Bois Park that would not have occurred without the infusion that historical horse racing brings to this industry. A season that disbursed nearly $2 million in purses to horsemen, employed 280 Idahoans, and contributed $2.67 million in taxes.
“We are currently reviewing all of our options and assessing the significant impact that complying with the court’s order will have on the immediate and long-term future of Les Bois Park.”
Most forms of gambling, including slot machines and poker are illegal in the state, except at tribal casinos such the Coeur d’Alene tribe’s property in Worley. Greyhound Park, about 40 miles from the casino also offered the machines. A third location was stripped of their license earlier this week due to procedural errors in county permitting and the lack of an active simulcast license for off-track betting.