Idaho Governor Butch Otter vetoed legislation banning instant racing machines in Idaho on April 3rd and announced the action on April 6th. The measure had passed both houses by “veto-proof” majorities, but the senate wasn’t able to muster enough votes to override the veto. The bill passed the senate earlier by a margin of 25 – 9, but the overide failed 19 – 16, needing a two thirds majority.
Senators met behind closed doors to look into procedural questions about the timing of the action, drafting letters stating that they had not been informed of the veto until Monday morning. That timing may matter as it would appear the governor had five days after receiving the bill to act, and possibly to notify the legislature of his decision. According to the Congressional Record, the bill was reported as delivered to the Governor on March 30th.
Opponents of the machines – namely Idaho tribes with casinos in the state as well as lawmakers who have stated they didn’t know that the machines would look and act like slots when they legalized them in 2013 – are likely to push back according to reports.
The governor announced a moratotiam on any new machines until a gambling commission could be created to regulate them. He also requested an investigator be appointed to determine the legality of the machines, as slots have been illegal in the state since the 1950’s.
The Idaho horse racing industry, having been reduced to a single commercial racetrack located in Boise, has profited from the machines, as well as invested proceeds in improving facilities and race purses. According to information circulated by Idaho Wins, in the first five months the machines were operational at Les Park the Idaho Horse Racing Commission reported a handle of $22,841,754.00. Les Bois Park has 200 machines. There are two other locations in the state that offer them.
The governor said in his announcement of the veto, “In my view, a precious part of Idaho’s Western culture is at stake,” in reference to horse racing.