Horses may no longer run at Les Bois Park in Boise. The company that runs the facility – Treasure Valley Racing – says a ban passed earlier this year on gambling machines is jeopardizing its business.
John Sheldon is the president of Treasure Valley Racing. He says after the Idaho Supreme Court upheld a ban on instant horse racing in September, he’s had to lay off 86 workers. Instant horse racing uses equipment that critics say operate like slot machines, which are illegal except on tribal land. Sheldon says his staff is discouraged by the state’s back and forth decisions when it comes to this type of gambling.
“They can’t believe this could happen," Sheldon says, "that the Legislature could pass a law one year and then two years later take away that opportunity and all the money that was invested could go to waste.”
Sheldon says his company invested $4 million in instant horse racing two years ago. He says without it, Les Bois Park can’t afford to put on the live horse races the park is known for.
Sheldon, though, is hopeful after Governor Butch Otter's office wrote an op-ed on the topic earlier this week. In it, Otter advocates for the consideration of new legislation regarding betting, with more controls in place than before.
But he says even if the ban is lifted, it will be too late for Les Bois to offer live horse racing in 2016.
Follow reporter Frankie Barnhill on Twitter @FABarnhill
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