Idaho's Constitution reads clearly: "No activity shall employ any form of casino gambling including, but not limited to slot machines."
Yet Idaho's tribes have slot machines despite our state Constitution - to which the tribes are subject under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. This may be due, in part, to a referendum law the tribes pushed through in 2002, a law that baldly asserts that tribal slot machines are not slot machines. In 2003, Las Vegas-based Acres Gaming proudly announced an order for $3 million worth of "slot machines" from an Idaho tribe.
If we call a horse a cow, is it still a horse or is it a cow?
Since nobody raised a fuss about tribal slot machines, the Idaho Lottery has now quietly installed their own "TouchTab" slot machines at 650 Idaho locations. Their video machines show a scratch ticket that you "open" by swiping your finger across a screen. You can bet as fast as you can swipe.
If kids painted cigarettes red and called them licorice, would we let them smoke in school?
So now the horse tracks are pushing legislation to say "Historic Horse Racing" slot machines (showing race videos that can be skipped to speed up betting) are not slot machines-a claim laughed out of dozens of legislatures since Arkansas fell for it several years ago.
Recognizing today's slot machines is simple. They are rapid-bet electronic gambling devices. Push a button or swipe your hand across the screen to place a new bet every 5 seconds, 12 bets per minute, 720 bets per hour. At $2 per bet, that's nearly $1,500 bet per hour. That kind of betting is not bingo or a lottery ticket or a horse race. It's certainly not the kind of betting envisioned to be legal when Idaho's citizens adopted our Constitutional ban on slot machines in 1992.
Such fast-bet machines have been shown to draw more than half of their revenues from addicted gamblers. Addicts do not play for fun. They don't even play to win. They play to escape reality until they have spent every dime they can legally or illegally get their hands on - in what one slot designer calls "gambling to extinction," reports MIT professor Natasha Schull in her new book, "Addiction by Design."
Why should you care? Maybe you think gambling addicts have the right to destroy their own lives (as if their lives don't affect others). Maybe you even think that the state is somehow obligated to allow predators to take advantage of those addicts - and to grab some of the profits.
But recognize that addicted gamblers are really, REALLY expensive to the rest of us. Baylor University economist Earl Grinols provides the most comprehensive analysis of the research in his book "Gambling: Costs and Benefits." He concludes that gambling creates more than $3 in costs to society for every $1 in benefits it can claim. It's a trade-off that only looks good if you ignore the costs - which gambling promoters are paid to get us to do. Learn more at StopPredatoryGambling.org.
The point is, the highest law in our state bans slot machines. Allowing slot machines to pretend to be bingo or scratch tickets or horse races makes a mockery of the Idaho Constitution.
Former state Sen. Grant Ipsen, Meridian, serves on the board of the national Stop Predatory Gambling Foundation and is president of Stop Predatory Gambling Idaho.