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Instant Horse Racing Machines Illegal; Idaho Supreme Court Rules For Tribes

Jack McNeel

Instant horse racing machines, which closely resemble slot machines, are now officially illegal in Idaho following a ruling by the Idaho Supreme Court.

This case began over two years ago when horse racing advocates introduced the concept of using machines to promote racing. The machines they introduced were accepted by the legislature but when they were installed, they were different than those shown to the legislature, and looked like slots.

The 2015 legislature reconsidered their decision and passed a resolution to make these machines illegal, following the Idaho Constitution, which states that slot machines are illegal. That bill passed both Houses by supermajority margins. Governor Butch Otter vetoed the bill but failed to return his veto to the Senate within the five-day limit as required by law. The bill should have immediately become law but the veto was allowed to stand, thus allowing instant horse racing machines to continue, until the Coeur d’Alene Tribe hired a law firm to take the case to the Idaho Supreme Court.

RELATED: Tribe Challenges Idaho Governor’s Veto of Instant Horse Racing Machines in State Supreme Court

The Supreme Court decision came in an early September ruling that Governor Otter’s veto was invalid and that state officials must follow the Constitution.

Only three locations had installed the machines but had the law stood it could have allowed one such location in each of Idaho’s 44 counties with no limit on the number of machines at any location. The impact could have had a serious impact on tribal casinos throughout Idaho.

Coeur d’Alene Tribal Chairman Chief Allan was quoted in a tribal release saying, “We are very pleased with the Supreme Court’s ruling. This pivotal decision reaffirms that even Idaho’s highest elected officials must follow the Constitution. This is a big win for the Idaho Legislature because the Court is upholding a law that was passed by a supermajority of both the Idaho Senate and the House of Representatives. This is exactly why our government has checks and balances in place. We are extremely happy with the result.”

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