BOISE – Election officials say a proposal to legalize so-called “historical horse racing” in Idaho appears to have secured enough verifiable signatures to qualify for the November ballot. It’s now up to the state’s election office to determine if the signatures meet legislative district requirements.
Idaho Secretary of State Lawerence Denney said Friday that county clerks across the state have unofficially verified roughly 61,400 signatures that organizers submitted earlier this year. Under Idaho rules the signatures don’t become official until they are delivered to the Secretary of State’s office.
The effort needed at least 56,192 signatures to qualify. However, those signatures must also come from 6 percent of the registered voters in at least 18 of Idaho’s 35 legislative districts. The Idaho Secretary of State’s office has until mid-July to determine if that requirement has been met.
Historical horse racing involves bettors using terminals to place bets on randomly selected past horse races with no identifiable information about the horses or results. The terminals use pari-mutuel wagering – a betting system that pits bettors against each other and gives the house a percentage of the winnings – which is allowed under Idaho law.
The lucrative betting machines, also known as “instant racing terminals,” were legal between 2013 and 2015, but lawmakers banned them after deciding they resembled illegal slot machines.
The repeal caused outcries from Treasure Valley Racing and other historical horse racing advocates, arguing the profitable instant racing terminals are needed to keep live horse racing sustainable.
So far, the Coeur d’Alene Tribe has come out the strongest against legalizing the machines because they argue the machines do not actually use pari-mutual betting and are dressed-up slot machines because they have spinning wheels, sounds and animations. Critics counter that the tribe has an incentive to keep the machines out of Idaho because it currently has a monopoly on video gambling.
Todd Dvorak, a lobbyist with Strategies 360 and a spokesman for the Save Idaho Horse Racing campaign, said the campaign believes the initiative qualified in 22 legislative districts, well above the 18-district requirement.
This is the second ballot initiative poised to qualify for the November ballot. Earlier this year, county clerks confirmed that a proposal to expand Medicaid had also collected enough signatures for the upcoming election.