Otter’s Big Gamble
Monday Governor Otter will announce his decision to end Les Bois Park or allow gambling in Idaho. It's that simple. The time for hyperbole and rationalization is over. How did we get to this point and what should Butch Otter do? Let's explore.
A few years ago with much fanfare and promise a group of individuals brought horse racing back to Idaho. We were led to believe that everything was great thanks to the unprecedented positive earned media coverage. Anything to do with horse racing, we'd see the TV stations doing their live shots. That type of advertising would cost thousands if purchased. It wasn't, and everything was great.
The Coeur d'Alene Tribe backed a bill called SB 1011. The bill's purpose was to remove 'historical racing' machines from Les Bois Park. The emotional testimony featured many legislators critical of the expansion of gambling in Idaho. Several toured the track commenting it resembled a Reno Casino more than Churchill Downs. SB 1011 passed both the House and Senate. It awaits the governor's signature Monday.
If Governor Otter signs the bill, then Les Boise will close according to its owners. If he vetoes the bill, then Les Bois survives. Jobs will be saved, and gambling will be expanded in Idaho. The owners of Les Boise have spent money on newspaper ads, billboards, and other means to encourage the veto. Who's to blame? Just about everyone.
The owners of Les Bois got greedy. If you listen to their radio ads, then you hear them featuring 'gaming machines.' Horse Racing is a secondary mention during the spot. The success of their efforts led to the Coeur d'Alene Tribe calling their legislators to 'fix' this problem. Why go travel to gamble when you can drive to Garden City? The fix was in, and SB 1011 was born.
The legislators did not do their due diligence and allowed themselves to be fooled about 'historic' gaming machines. If they didn't allow the machines in the first place, we would not be in this mess. The track folks shouldn't have accounted for the additional gaming revenue. Therefore, they wouldn't have to threaten to pull jobs without the machines.
It all comes down to Cowboy Governor Otter on Monday. Like poker, the stakes have been raised, we're all in. The governor must show leadership by signing this bill. If he doesn't, he has officially expanded gambling in the Gem State.
We could see the Coeur d'Alene Tribe or others file a lawsuit stating that the machines violate the state constitution. If I had to read the tea leaves, I would look to the governor to veto this bill. Why have a big announcement to say that you've signed a bill? You need to justify a veto if you use it. We'll see if Governor Otter takes the gamble.