Instant racing crucial to saving Idaho's horse racing industry, supporters say

csewell@idahostatesman.comNovember 26, 2013 

Instant racing gambling machines at Kentucky Downs in Franklin, Ky. A case is pending before the Kentucky Supreme Court on the legality of the machines.

LUKE SHARRETT — Lexington Herald-Leader

The private company that operates horse racing at the Ada County-owned fairgrounds has experienced "significant revenue losses in the six and seven figures," Treasure Valley Racing partner Jim Grigsby told the Board of Ada County Commissioners.

To stay afloat, the company needs the county to allow it to install at least 200 historic horse racing, or instant racing, wagering terminals in the county's Turf Club. If unable to generate more revenue, "We will be forced to close Les Bois Park," he said. "Our fate is in your hands."

More than 150 people turned out Tuesday evening for a public meeting to learn more about how instant racing, approved by Idaho lawmakers this year and currently in use in Kentucky and Arkansas, can save horse racing by generating more revenue. Instant racing lets players bet on videos of previously run horse races.

About 30 people spoke before the commissioners with about half supporting the venture. Proponents said hundreds of jobs would be saved or created with the new revenue stream, which will increase race purses and draw more and better horses to Idaho. Opponents said this is gambling, and the publicly owned Turf Club will become a casino-style facility propping up a dying industry.

"If Les Bois Park were on private property, most people would not have a problem with it. This is being subsidized by Ada County taxpayers," said former Garden City lawmaker and city councilwoman Elfreda Higgins.

The county is still negotiating its lease agreement with Treasure Valley Racing to determine if instant racing will be allowed at Les Bois Park and under what terms.

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