Horse racing operator responds to Garden City's concerns

csewell@idahostatesman.comNovember 22, 2013 

Treasure Valley Racing has officially responded to concerns raised by Garden City about the company's plan to bring a new form of horse race wagering, called instant racing or historical racing, to the county-owned Les Bois Park.

Garden City on Nov. 14 sent Ada County a list of questions it would like answered during the county's Nov. 26 public meeting on a proposal to install a new type of horse race betting system, called instant racing or historical racing, at Les Bois Park. Initial plans call for installing 200 instant racing machines in the Turf Club.

In a Nov. 21 letter responding to Garden City, Treasure Valley Racing President John Sheldon stated Garden City, the region, the state and the equine industry will benefit from this new revenue source.

Instant racing uses devices resembling electronic gaming machines that allow players to wager on video replays of previously run races. The player puts money in the machine (10 cents to $5), selects a race and receives statistical information on the horses, their trainers and jockeys; names and racetrack location are not revealed. The player then selects three horses and presses start, then a video of the race plays revealing the winners.

Garden City says it has a vested interest in what happens at the county's 240-acre Expo Idaho. The complex is within Garden City limits but it has not been annexed into the city. Even though it is not part of the city or under the city's control, the city is still responsible for providing police and other services.

Sheldon made several clarifications about statements made by Garden City and in the press.

"This is not casino-style gaming, as it has been deemed in the press and within the Garden City Council," he wrote. He also clarified that instant racing "is not 'expanded gambling,' but rather a new technological pari-mutuel wagering product available to patrons."

Under the Idaho Constitution Article III Section 20 Gambling prohibited: "Gambling is contrary to public policy and is strictly prohibited except for … pari-mutuel betting."

On July 1, a state law went into effect expanding pari-mutuel betting to include instant racing.

"Governor Otter signed this bill into law. I have great respect for the Governor's leadership, plus the partnership of the Ada County Commissioners, who understand what this improvement in the Idaho horse industry will mean to Idaho in creating jobs and preserving our industry," Sheldon wrote.

Sheldon pointed out the positive economic impact horse racing already has on Garden City.

"Between May and mid-August 2013, nearly 110,000 patrons attended live horse racing in Garden City. Many of the 110,000 visitors to Les Bois Park also enjoy the many fine offerings that Garden City has to offer in terms of eating, drinking, lodging and entertainment facilities that stimulate the local economy."

Sheldon said Garden City does not need to worry about security concerns because, "Treasure Valley Racing employs a full-time security force year round."

Anyone interested in learning more about plans for Les Bois Park can attend a public meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 26. Treasure Valley Racing LLC officials will make a public presentation on the benefits of instant racing during the public meeting, which starts at 6 p.m. in main floor hearing room of the Ada County Courthouse, 200 W. Front St.

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