COEUR d’ALENE — An Idaho ballot initiative to legalize gambling on historic horse races was defeated by a 7-point margin Tuesday, with opponents garnering 53.8 percent of voters to 46.2 percent in favor.
The final tally with all 960 precincts reporting was 278,092 for and 323,732 against.
Todd Dvorak, a spokesperson for the Prop 1 push, said he was disappointed at the election’s outcome despite what appeared as a large percentage of voters supporting the measure.
John Sheldon of Treasure Valley Racing, the company that operates Boise’s Les Bois horse racing park and which solely funded the ballot initiative, said the results reflected strong community support.
“We appreciate the support of all Idahoans who voted in favor of Proposition 1 and the countless volunteers and supporters who worked so hard to revive Idaho’s live horse racing industry,” Sheldon said.
Proponents of the measure argued that passing the initiative would provide money for schools — similar to the Idaho Lottery — while adding jobs in an industry uniquely suited to Idaho’s Western culture.
Opponents said the initiative was meant to line the pockets of a few who operate video horse racing slot machines, while actually doing little for schools.
The measure would have legalized betting on past horse races — called instant racing — something that neighboring Oregon and Wyoming, as well as Arkansas and Kentucky, allow.
It would also have used video terminals similar to slot machines. Instant racing was legal in Idaho for two years beginning in 2013 until the Supreme Court overturned Gov. Butch Otter’s veto of legislation outlawing the practice at the behest of North Idaho Indian tribes. Tribes had already pushed for a successful 2002 ballot initiative that allowed video gaming machines in their casinos. The machines cash out tickets and don’t have a lever — so they are not defined as slot machines.
Sheldon said the latest campaign to legalize horse racing was meant to put horses back on the track.
“We’re obviously disappointed by the results and the fact that our best efforts to revitalize the horse racing industry have been dealt another blow,” he said.
Ken Andrus and Coeur d’Alene Tribe chairman Ernie Stensgar, who represented the opponent Idaho United Against Prop 1, released a joint statement Wednesday after defeat of the initiative.
“Today’s vote proves what we’ve been saying all along — Proposition 1 was a bad bet for Idahoans,” they said in the joint statement. “Voters sent a clear message tonight. Idahoans do not want a statewide expansion of casino-style gambling.”