Idaho High Court Upholds Law Banning Horse Racing Terminals

Sep 10, 2015

Credit Jessica Robinson / Northwest News Network

Idaho's highest court says the state must enforce legislation banning lucrative instant horse racing terminals.

In a unanimous decision issued Thursday, the court ruled that Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter's veto of the legislation was invalid because he didn't complete it within the required five-day time span.

Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter issued the following statement today in reaction to the decision:

“I am disappointed with the Supreme Court’s decision. I vetoed the bill within the time allowed under the Constitution. As for the time of its return, I gave Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill my word that he could be the first to inform his colleagues of my veto, instead of having them learn of it through press reports. Unfortunately the Senate already was adjourned for the long Easter weekend. I stand by my word as well as my earlier decision to veto this legislation. It is clear the Senate took up my veto and voted to uphold it. While I disagree with today’s ruling, I will continue working toward a solution that ensures a viable live horse racing industry in Idaho.” -Gov. Otter in a press release


The court said Secretary of State Lawerence Denney must certify the law, making the machines illegal. There are currently about 250 of the machines installed in three locations across Idaho.

Known as instant horse racing, the machines allow bettors to place wages on prior horse races with no identifiable information. Idaho lawmakers approved legalizing the machines in 2013, but passed the legislation banning them earlier this year after critics argued the machines were essentially illegal slot machines.

Horse racing track owners have countered that the terminals are needed to keep their industry afloat.

Treasure Valley Racing President (Operator of Les Bois Park) John Sheldon reacted to today's Supreme Court ruling:

"Treasure Valley Racing is obviously extremely disappointed in the Court’s ruling. It comes on the heels of a 32-day live race schedule at Les Bois Park that would not have occurred without the infusion that historical horse racing brings to this industry. A season that disbursed nearly $2 million in purses to horsemen, employed 280 Idahoans, and contributed $2.67 million in taxes. We are currently reviewing all of our options and assessing the significant impact that complying with the Court’s order will have on the immediate and long-term future of Les Bois Park." - John Sheldon