Idaho Update

Horsemen draft legislation designed to save the state’s racing industry.

Associated Press

Idaho horsemen are drafting legislation designed to save the state's racing industry.

Horsemens’ groups in Idaho, including the Idaho Quarter Horse Association, are drafting legislation that includes a key to saving the state’s racing industry.

Last year, Idaho lawmakers overwhelmingly voted to repeal Historical Racing, also known as Instant Racing. But some horsemen groups say the fight is not over.

“We think we can change lawmakers’ minds,” said Clayton Russell of the IQHA. “I don’t think some of them realize what they did to us last year.”

The goal is to finalize a bill in the upcoming weeks. While supporters aren't disclosing the full details of the bill, they say it includes language regarding Instant Racing that would be overseen and regulated by a state gaming commission. The commission would replace Idaho's current lottery and horse racing boards and regulate all forms of gambling.

However, the bill's biggest challenge will be securing a hearing at the Idaho Statehouse this legislative session.

"If there isn't something to help support the horsemen then it's going to be devastating," Russell said.

Idaho lawmakers legalized Instant Racing in 2013, but two years later lawmakers repealed the law after many said they had been duped into approving cleverly designed slot-machines. Supporters argued that the machines were vital to sustaining the horse industry because a portion of the profits went to racing owners and breeding groups.

Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter vetoed the legislation in March, but the Coeur d'Alene Tribe sued the state arguing he failed to do so on time. In September, the Idaho Supreme Court ruled in the tribe's favor, and the machines were turned off for good.

Otter said in October that he wanted the terminals reinstated but with tighter regulations. However, when Otter kicked off this year's legislative session nearly two weeks ago, there was no mention of horse racing in his list of what he wanted addressed this year.

Otter told The Associated Press shortly after his address that his State of the State speech is for items he believes can be won.

"We haven't got our arms around of what's doable," Otter said, reiterating like he did in his veto message that he wants a gaming commission that oversees, among other things, some form of instant horse racing.

Sen. Curt McKenzie (R-Nampa) says he's waiting to see the bill before deciding if it will receive a hearing in the Senate State Affairs Committee.

McKenzie is the chairman, but the panel includes Senate leaders such as Pro Tem President Brent Hill, Majority Leader Bart Davis and Majority Caucus Chair Todd Lakey.

In Instant Racing, bettors place wages on prior races with no identifiable information.

AQHA News and information is a service of the American Quarter Horse Association. For more news and information, follow @AQHA Racing on Twitter, "like" Q-Racing on Facebook, and visit www.aqharacing.com.