Historic Horse Racing Debate Attracts Crowded Field at Idaho Statehouse

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It was a crowded field at Monday morning’s public hearing regarding so-called “historic horse racing” in Idaho, and while the issue circled the paddock multiple times, the debate is far from coming in at the wire.

“The terminals on historic racing are pari-mutuel betting,” J. Curtis Linell, vice president of the Thoroughbred Racing Protective Bureau, the top auditor of all-things horse racing, told the Senate State Affairs Committee emphatically.

But while Linell insisted that he was neither a proponent or opponent of the controversial betting devices, he conceded that his trip to Idaho from his home base of Maryland was being paid by the Idaho Racing Commission.

Helo Hancock, legislative liaison of the Coeur d’Alene Tribe and Nathan Small, chairman of the Fort Hall Business Council of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes, both told the committee that the instant racing terminals were a violation of Idaho law which forbids slot machines.

“They’re not legal and they must be stopped,” said Hancock.

But hall-of-fame jockey Gary Stevens, operators of race tracks in Post Falls and Idaho Falls, and the man whose company invented the concept of historical horse racing all jumped to the wagering’s defense.

“It mimics the same skill you have at a race track, said Louis Cella, from Oaklawn Park in Arkansas, and vice president of Race Tech LLC, which developed the machines.

Linell told the committee that a recent review of receipts for the week of Jan. 25 revealed a $2.2 million handle on historical horse racing at Idaho’s three locations—in Garden City, Post Falls and Idaho Falls.

Testimony will continue on Wednesday, Feb. 11.

“We didn’t even get halfway through the list of people who signed up to testify,” said committee Chairman Sen. Curt McKenzie.