Idaho Lawmakers See Weak Connection Between Horse Racing And 'Instant Racing'

Feb 9, 2015

The manufacturer of so-called “instant horse racing” machines tried to convince Idaho lawmakers Monday not ban the gambling devices.

Lawmakers legalized the machines two years ago, but are having second thoughts.

In 2013, track owners told lawmakers the games based on historical races would help save the racing business. But lawmakers say the result look a like slot machines -- and those are illegal on non-tribal land.

The games have names like “Pigs in Mud” and “Yukon Willie’s Gold Rush.” Republican Sen. Todd Lakey said he had to go through several menus of a cherry-themed game to find statistics on horses.

“And the pie charts were there for four or five seconds and I couldn’t go back and look at them after that,” he said.

But the manufacturer of the instant racing terminals told lawmakers the set-up is meant to draw in the novices -- and keep experts from identifying the original races.

“We made it easy for the non-traditional fan to come back to the race track,” said Louis Cella, the vice president of RaceTech, LLC. “We did not want to intimidate them and the reason is, this is a game of skill.”

He said unlike slots, instant racing is not based on random numbers generated by the machine itself. The underlying data comes from actual past horse races. Instant racing is considered a “parimutuel” game, where bettors are part of a pool and play against each other rather than the house.

The Idaho Senate State Affairs Committee could vote Wednesday on the bill to repeal instant racing. A competing bill would allow the machines to remain at locations in Boise, Post Falls and Idaho Falls, but would prevent any other operators from getting authorization for instant racing.

Race track operators testified they’ve already put millions of dollars into installing the machines and urged lawmakers not to ban them.