Idaho Race and Sports Wagering
Horse racing legislation was first passed in 1957, but was vetoed by the Governor. Then, in March 1963, the legislature passed the Racing Act, which legalized pari-mutuel wagering on horse racing over the governor's veto, the first veto override in 20 years. Idaho's first pari-mutuel races were held at the Gem County Fairgrounds and at the Eastern Idaho State Fair in 1964. The following year, the North Idaho Fair also offered live horse racing.
The SRC was established within the Idaho State Police Department to maintain the integrity of horse racing and simulcasting through the licensing, regulation and supervision of all racing meets within the state. The SRC consists of a three-member board appointed by the governor for three-year terms. Members must be residents and citizens of the state.
The Racing Act imposes daily fees for both live and simulcast horse races. However, the fees are not assessed unless the average daily handle is $100,000 or more for either type of race. For live horse races, the licensee is required to pay 0.50% of the gross daily receipts to benefit a breeders' fund. Licensees that conduct simulcast horse races must distribute, after payment of winnings, 0.75% of the gross daily receipts to the SRC account, and may retain 22% for themselves. After the racing facility costs are deducted, the funds levied on simulcast betting benefit youth programs run by the Idaho Horse Board and the Robert R. Lee Promise Scholarship program, which each year awards 25 scholarships to students attending state colleges and universities. The remaining funds are distributed to local horsemen to improve horse racing in the state.
In May 1970, the Les Bois Park racetrack first opened its doors, offering live horse races. Les Bois Park closed in early 2009 because of issues with the track owners, horse owners and Ada County. In April 2011, racing returned to the track when Treasure Valley Racing LLC (TVR), a newly founded business, was awarded a five-year lease.
With the onset of a declining economy and the addition of other choices for gambling dollars, the North Idaho Fair ended live horse racing at the close of the 1983 season.
The Horse Racing Act was amended in 1987 to authorize live greyhound racing, and the Coeur d'Alene Greyhound Park opened in 1988. However, because of declining racing revenue, the racetrack was forced to stop live greyhound racing in 1995.
The legislature authorized simulcasting in 1990. In 2003, the legislature approved advance deposit wagering.
On 1 July 2011, an expanded simulcast law was enacted, which broadened simulcast betting by allowing it at facilities other than those hosting live horse racing. Fundamentally, this change allowed simulcast horse betting to occur at locations other than at live horse racing facilities, which were the only sites where pari-mutuel betting was permitted. County fairgrounds were where most horse racing and betting occurred, and their facilities were not always conducive to attracting bettors. Supporters of the bill felt that offtrack betting facilities should be able to offer quality seating, food and other incentives to appeal to gamblers. With the new bill, county fairs with a simulcast license could offer offtrack betting to another venue within the same county. However, if licensees could not find a desirable site, they could transfer the license to another county, provided that county approved the license transfer and no horse racing of any kind occurred in that county for five years. There are only eight of these licenses available in Idaho.
On 22 March 2013, the state adopted HB220, which allowed pari-mutuel wagering on historical horse races. Licensees already approved for simulcasting were permitted to simulcast past live horse races for betting purposes. The SRC would receive 1.50% of historical wagering gross daily receipts for distribution to various funds. However, the machines that were originally accepted by the legislature were different than the machines that were put in place, which closely resembled slot machines. Both the state House and Senate voted to repeal the law in March 2015, though that decision was vetoed by Gov. Butch Otter. Six months later, the state's Supreme Court ruled that the instant horse racing machines were illegal, as the Idaho Constitution states that slot machines are illegal.
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