Industry Reports

Idaho Reopens Debate to Legalize Slot Machine-like Horse Racing Terminals

Idaho has added “historical” or “instant” horse racing machines to its wish list. The horse-race betting machines are very similar to slot machine-like betting terminals that allow players to place bets on replays of horse races that have already been run.

According to the latest news, a bill that would call for the legalization of horse-race betting machines has been recently introduced to the state. The Idaho Attorney General’s Office filed an opinion, arguing that the legalization of these machines is unconstitutional.

Idaho lawmakers are reopening a debate to legalize horse-race betting machines throughout the state. The recent move came almost 3 years after the Idaho Supreme Court repealed the authorization for the machines in 2015. The proponents of the initiative believe that the legalization of the horse-race betting machines could financially support the decades-long horse racing tradition. It is not a secret that the horse racing industry has started to wane over the past few years. The industry is still on life support, desperately seeking for some help.

The proposed bill would allow all the establishments that are licensed for live racing to host such horse racing machines. The only requirement would be for these establishments to host live racing for at least eight days every year. It is important to note that the Greyhound Park in Post Falls has a special status that allows the park to offer wagering.

Horse Racing Terminals are “Unconstitutional”

But the proposed piece of legislation might be killed as Idaho Attorney General explained that the legalization of such betting terminals is unconstitutional. The AG’s certificate of reviews states that historical horse racing is legal across the state if it does not include slot machines or any casino gambling electronic equipment.

The Idaho Constitution sees “historical horse racing” similar to traditional pari-mutuel betting and in that sense, it is legal across the state. Idaho Attorney General warned the lawmakers that the presence of any simulations of casino gambling may trigger legal dispute.

Nevertheless, the lawmakers can still try to push the envelope as the AG’s review is only advisory. The sponsors of the bill will need the approval of more than 56,000 people from all over the state by 30th April. In that way, the bill can appear on 2018 general election ballot in November. Even if the sponsors of the bill manage to push their initiative forward, the bill may still fail, supposing that the court finds it unconstitutional.

According to Idaho AG’s review, the attorneys general of Maryland and Nebraska also concluded that the betting machines simulate casino gambling and these are not pari-mutuel betting. In 2006, Wyoming Supreme Court ruled out that the horse racing machines are just slot machines, but not a new technology.