This is a guest opinion by Boise attorney David Leroy, responding to a recent column by Jim Jones about Idaho’s Proposition 1.
As a former Idaho Attorney General and Lt. Governor, I am truly surprised at the misdirection and confusion which is being offered to oppose the Historical Horse Racing Initiative (Proposition One). For me, it is an easy “yes” vote.
The law would do nothing more than restart the process of allowing betting machines at live horse racing venues and a single, non-operational track that meet specific criteria, just as we had during the years 2014-2015, when a collapse of civilization did not take place.
A former Justice recently predicted that the Idaho Supreme Court could follow the logic of a Wyoming court to rule the initiative unconstitutional. The Wyoming decision is a moot point, because HHR terminals are legally operating in that state currently and the machines themselves are substantially different than when that court examined them. Furthermore, that now irrelevant conclusion ignores our own Idaho Constitution, specifically the language in Article III, Section 20, which allows “pari-mutuel betting if conducted in accordance with enabling legislation.” Already existing statutes permit any “exhibition” of horse racing at a location “where the pari-mutuel system of wagering is used.”
Of course, a lawsuit may well be filed by one of the contending parties after the fact, but both the legislative history of the original act and a 2012 Idaho Attorney General’s letter opinion predict that the track-based use of these pari-mutuel machines is likely to be held constitutional by the Idaho Supreme Court. Indeed, like many other states and courts, this week a Kentucky circuit court ruled once again that historical horse racing terminals were, in fact, pari-mutuel wagering based on the outcome of horse races, and thus constitutional, despite any appearances of a casino game.
Unfortunately, some newspaper’s editorials have not been as clear or instructive as their readers should expect about this “political” issue. For example, one editorial board last week suggested that citizens cast a “no” vote, because the measure is allegedly “complex and confusing.” It is neither.
Simply put, Proposition One does the following:
1) Reestablishes the use of previously used and now familiar historical horse racing terminals, which are pari-mutuel in nature, meaning that bettors bet against other bettors in the pool, not against “The House.”
2) Co-locates the machines at horse racing tracks, and only at tracks, where they offer the potential to revive that industry and its related economics and employment,
3) If they remain as popular with the public as they once were, allows the devices to generate significant funding over time for Idaho schools,
4) Will not put any of ldaho’s tribal casinos out of business, nor is it even likely to negatively affect their profit margins.
Politics in this day and age can be plenty confusing and conflicted. Almost every new, even well-intended public policy has trade-offs and unanticipated consequences. Historical horse racing for Idaho, however, is neither novel nor confusing. If voters pass the initiative, we will simply reauthorize a form of gaming which has been field tested without adverse consequences.
Certainly, many Idahoans may oppose gambling in any form and accordingly vote “no.” That, too, is an honorable position, if taken on principle, for moral reasons or with a valid factual basis. But Idahoans should not be misled by the many untrue allegations or wild legal speculations swirling around Proposition One. As to me, for both history and horses, “YES” on Prop 1 makes sense.
David Leroy has previously served as Idaho’s Attorney General and Lieutenant Governor and currently practices law in Boise.