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Don't be fooled on Prop 1

November 5, 2018
By U.S. Congressman Raul Labrador

I have had the privilege of serving the people of this great state for 12 years. From the Capitol in Boise to the halls of Congress in Washington, I can spot a bad deal for the Gem State from a mile away. That is why I am voting “no” on Proposition 1 this November and you should too.

After reading the measure, I can tell voters that Prop 1 is about the legalization and expansion of gambling throughout Idaho, not about saving horse racing, providing money to our schools or helping our communities. What the sponsors don’t want you to know is that Prop 1 legalizes Historical Horse Racing (HHR) terminals, which are nothing more than slot machines, at locations throughout the state.

These machines have very little to do with traditional horse racing, which has been and continues to be legal in Idaho. Truthfully, horse racing in Idaho has been in decline for years - an unfortunate reality across America. But that’s no excuse to provide this one industry special treatment. Especially at the cost of expanding gambling across Idaho.

Also, the promises being made about education funding by proponents just don’t add up. These gambling machines are lucrative and promoters of this measure are set to take home at least 18 times more money than schools. In fact, the sponsors of Prop 1 made similar promises back in 2013 that turned out to be untrue – a state auditor’s report found that money didn’t go to schools and was spent illegally.

In an effort to blunt some of this criticism, the promoters recently announced the establishment of a foundation to which they plan to donate all of their profits. Let’s explore this claim carefully. Their ads do not make it clear that they are talking about “net” profits. We don’t know what this means and how they will interpret it because there is no language in Prop 1 that would require the establishment of said foundation or clarifies what this promise means.

Also, this promise only applies to the track in the Treasure Valley and does not apply to the many other tracks throughout the state that will have gambling machines as well. Clearly, the idea of the foundation was merely an afterthought when the promoters realized the unpopularity of their proposal.

Finally, Prop 1 stands on questionable legal grounds and could pose a real burden to taxpayers if passed. As highlighted in Attorney General Lawrence Wasden’s review of the measure, the legality of HHR terminals is not clear. Therefore, Prop 1 will likely draw a lengthy and costly legal battle at the expense of Idaho taxpayers.

Don’t be fooled - Article 3, Section 20 of the Idaho Constitution clearly bans “slot machines” or “any electronic or electromechanical imitation” of casino gambling in Idaho. In fact, the Idaho Legislature determined HHR terminals were illegal and banned them in 2015 after seeing that the spinning cherries, bells, and whistles of the HHR terminals mimicked slot machines found in a Las Vegas casino. I agree with legal experts who believe the Idaho Supreme Court is likely to look at the addition of HHR terminals as an expansion of gambling and rule that it violates our state constitution.

Not only does Prop 1 expand gambling across Idaho while proponents make dubious claims about how it helps Idaho communities, but it will pull taxpayers right into the middle of a costly legal battle that can and should be avoided. It is for these reasons that I am voting “No” on November 6 and ask that you join me.

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