Idaho Voters Say No to Historical Racing

Posted by Press Release on 11/08/2018

BOISE, ID—NOVEMBER 7, 2018—On Tuesday Idaho voters by 54.2 percent rejected an initiative to allow historical horse racing to return to the state. 

Millions of dollars were spent promoting and fighting the measure to legalize the machines. The devices are needed to help subsidize racetracks and boost purses, improving live horse racing. 

Proponents said Prop 1 would have boosted Idaho’s horse racing industry and economy, helping to fund schools. Opponents said it would send the state down a path of gambling and casinos. 

“Today’s vote proves what we’ve been saying all along – Proposition 1 was a bad bet for Idahoans,” Ken Andrus and Ernie Stensgar of Idaho United Against Prop 1 said in an emailed statement regarding the election results. “Idahoans do not want a statewide expansion of casino-style gambling. Idaho United Against Prop 1 is grateful for the thousands of state, local, and tribal community leaders, businesses, elected officials, educators and families who helped us share the truth about Prop 1 with Idahoans and to the voters who saw through the deception of this ballot initiative and chose to vote no.” 

The Idaho Legislature approved historical horse racing in 2013. Two years later, lawmakers repealed the measure, saying the terminals resembled slot machines more than video replay devices. Gov. Butch Otter vetoed the repeal in April 2015, but not quickly enough for the veto to survive a court challenge. 

If the proposition passed, a big question would be whether it could survive a court challenge. The Idaho Attorney General’s Office in a January analysis suggested it may take a court ruling to decide if the machines are legal pari-mutuel gambling, like live horse racing, or a facsimile of “casino gambling” banned by the Idaho Constitution. 

Supporters of the proposition were encouraged October 24th after a judge in Kentucky ruled that historical horse racing machines are pari-mutuel under the law and therefore legal. Kentucky is one of several states where racetracks operate the machines within their facilities.

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