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Idaho tribes urge state to take action against “illegal” gaming machines

8th January 2015 7:53 am GMT

Four Idaho Indian tribes have urged the state’s Governor and Attorney General to take immediate action to stop the expansion of instant racing gaming machines across the state, which they believe to be an “illegal activity” despite being passed into law in 2013.

In a letter this week to Governor Butch Otter and AG Lawrence Wasden, the chairmen of the Coeur d’Alene, Shoshone-Bannock, Kootenai, and Shoshune-Paiute tribes, expressed their “alarm and concern” for what has become an “unprecedented and illegal” expansion of casino gaming outside Idaho Indian Reservations under the guise of wagering on historical horse racing (more commonly known as instant racing).

“We urge you to take immediate action to stop this illegal activity,” wrote chairmen Chief J Allan (Coeur d’Alene), Nathan Small (Shoshune-Bannock), Gary Aitken Jr (Kootenai), and Lindsey Manning (Shoshune-Paiute).

In 2013, the Idaho Legislature passed HB220 which authorises pari-mutuel wagering on “historical” or previously run horse races. According to the tribes, representations were made in committee by proponents of the bill hearings at the time which explained that “the only difference between historical racing and traditional pari-mutuel wagering is that a patron is wagering on a previously run horse race.”

Based on this false representation, the tribes did not oppose the bill but said that it has since learned that many legislators who supported the bill did so under the same false premise.

“This description of historical horse racing or instant racing could not be further from the truth,” wrote the chairmen in the letter. “Since that time, much more has been exposed concerning the truth about instant racing. Legislators have raised concerns that they were ‘duped’ and have had ‘buyer’s remorse’ for having passed the bill without limitations and restrictions which has allowed track owners to exploit the law.”

The tribes cited a recent decision by the Wyoming Supreme Court which ruled that instant racing machines were illegal under state law, as the product was not a new technology but a “slot machine that attempts to mimic traditional pari-mutuel wagering.”

The tribes claim that the machines currently being used at Les Bois Park and Greyhound Park do not employ pari-mutuel wagering, since the last two seconds of an unknown race appears in a tiny 1x2 inch video while the payout is displayed in a spinning slot reel format on the full monitor.

“Furthermore, there is no limit on the number of machines these instant racing casinos can have and there is no limit on the number of counties in Idaho that can have these instant racing casinos,” the chairmen added.

The chairmen said that Idaho tribes have developed into a major economic and employment driver in their respective regions, and as a result could not understand why the state would allow this “undisputed socioeconomic progress to be jeopardized by this new form of casino gaming.”

“Instant racing must be stopped,” they wrote. “Unless immediate action is taken to stop this, it would appear that the state is only concerned about vigorously defending the anti-gambling provisions of the Idaho Constitution when its elected leaders believe it involves Indians. This double standard, as you know, cannot be legally or publicly defensible.”

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