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Idaho Supreme Court Ruling Means End of Historical Horse Racing

Les Bois laid off 80 people in the wake of the ruling


Historical horse racing is history at racetracks around Idaho, along with 80 jobs at Les Bois Park. Officials at the Garden City track announced Sept. 14 they had shuttered historical horse racing following an Idaho Supreme Court ruling Sept. 10 overturning Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter's veto of a banning the gambling machines.

The announcement from Les Bois came shortly after Idaho Secretary of State Lawerence Denney certified the law, otherwise known as SB1011.

According to a statement from John Sheldon, president of Les Bois operator Treasure Valley Racing, the layoffs were a direct result of the Supreme Court ruling and could spell trouble for the track in the long run.

"While our Turf Club restaurant, bar and simulcast wagering area remain open at this time, we are assessing the future viability of operating Les Bois Park and conducting a live meet next year," Sheldon stated.

Idaho legislators this past session denounced the gambling machines, which had popped up at three race tracks around the state, as little more than slot machines.

The Senate State Affairs Committee in February voted 25-9 in favor of repealing the law that allowed historic horse racing, which would require all 250 machines be removed from the state. The Idaho House of Representatives passed the bill as well, 49-21, but when it got to Otter's desk, he pulled out his veto stamp.

The Senate then tried to override the governor's veto, but fell five votes short of the needed two-thirds majority.

"While I disagree with the ruling, I will continue working toward a solution that ensures a viable live horse racing industry in Idaho," Otter stated in response to the Court's Sept. 10 decision.

In a separate statement following the ruling, Sheldon said Les Bois disbursed almost $2 million to horsemen, employed 280 Idahoans and contributed $2.67 million in taxes to the state during the most recent racing season, "which would not have occurred without the infusion that historical horse racing brings to this industry."