Garden City questions new take on horse-race bets

csewell@idahostatesman.comOctober 26, 2013 


On July 1, a new type of horse race wagering, called historical horse racing, became legal. Idaho is one of five states to allow this type of betting. Wyoming and Oregon also approved it this year; Kentucky and Arkansas began offering it a couple of years ago.


Also called instant racing, it uses video terminals that access 20,000 to 30,000 previously run horse races. The bettor puts money in the machine (in Kentucky the denominations range from 10 cents to $5), selects a race and then receives statistical information on the horses, their trainers and jockeys. The names and racetrack are not revealed. The bettor then selects three horses and presses start. A video of the race plays, revealing the winners, and the bettor, if lucky, collects the winnings. The gaming system has proved popular in Kentucky, bringing in more than $350 million in about 18 months.


Only the nine state-licensed pari-mutuel facilities can offer this type of betting. Les Bois Park in Garden City is the only such facility in the Treasure Valley. Idaho Racing Commission Director Frank Lamb said due to a backorder of the betting terminals, historical horse racing likely will not start in Idaho until after the first of the year. Les Bois Park and Greyhound Park in Post Falls probably will be the first facilities in Idaho to offer it, he said.


Les Bois is part of the Ada County-owned 240-acre fairgrounds complex located within Garden City. Since the land is not annexed into the city, it is not under Garden City's jurisdiction. The county leases the racetrack and Turf Club to a private company, Treasure Valley Racing LLC. Under the lease agreement, Treasure Valley Racing pays Ada County $75,000 annually plus .25 percent of the total live and simulcast handle in excess of $10 million.


The Garden City mayor and City Council sent a letter Thursday to the Ada County commissioners, saying the county's plans for "several hundred casino-style gambling machines" are "taxpayer-supported, year-around gambling" in the middle of their city that would create new problems for the police department and citizens. The city would like a thorough vetting of the plan and a chance for all Treasure Valley citizens to weigh in through a public hearing process.


On Aug. 26, the three county commissioners received a presentation from Treasure Valley Racing staff on plans to remodel the Turf Club and add 200 historical horse racing terminals, available from 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. seven days a week. The commissioners unanimously agreed to support the conceptual plan and directed staff to work with the company on a conditional use permit for the remodel, which would be subject to the public review process.

On Thursday, when asked if the new gaming system is allowed under the lease agreement, a county representative said it "is in communication with its current leaseholder to discuss terms upon which this legislatively authorized historical horse racing activity might be allowed at Les Bois Park." To date, the county has not held any public hearings on the plan to put the gaming machines on county-owned property. Les Bois officials could not be reached for comment Friday.

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