Save Idaho Horse Racing Group Says Ballot Goal Reached, Despite Alleged Sabotage

Posted on: May 1, 2018, 05:00h. 

Last updated on: May 2, 2018, 12:54h.

Save Idaho Horse Racing, a campaign group devoted to reintroducing instant racing machines at Idaho’s ailing racetracks, delivered its signatures of support to the county clerk office on May 1.

Save Idaho Horse Racing submits ballot signatures
Racing at Les Bois Park was closed down after a 2015 repeal of the state’s instant racing act. Save Idaho Horse Racing is spearheading a ballot campaign to bring it back and believes it has done enough. (Image: Darin Oswald/Idaho Statesman)

The group believes it has secured the number it needs –  around 56,000 signatures from registered voters in at least 18 of the state’s 35 legislative districts – to get its proposal added to the November ballot.

Save Idaho Racing said it surpassed its target by the April 30 deadline – gathering some 114,815 signatures, according to spokesman Todd Dvorak – despite claims of a campaign of intimidation waged against it by the Coeur d’Alene tribal operator.

The group has said its signature gatherers had filed up to ten police reports claiming harassment by members of the North Idaho Project, a committee ostensibly established to increase voter turnout in the region, funded by the Coeur D’Alene tribe.

Historical Horse Racing Battles

The tribe dismissed the claims as “more lies from people who have been lying to Idahoans for years,” but Dvorak told local radio last week that his campaign staff had been routinely stalked, harassed, and even bribed to quit.

Dvorak said one campaigner had been contacted via Facebook by someone offering $1,500 to abandon the project, although Dvorak admitted he had no proof that the attempted bribe was affiliated to the tribe in any way.

The Idaho legislature voted to legalize the instant racing machines – otherwise known as “historical horse racing” –  in 2013 but the law was repealed in 2015 following a campaign spearheaded by the Coeur d’Alene and other tribal operators. Governor Butch Otter’s attempt to veto the repeal failed on a technicality

A year later, the Les Bois Park horse racing track closed, saying it could not turn a profit without the additional revenues provided by instant racing.The terminals allow gamblers to bet on randomized reruns of races from around the world.

‘Democracy Under Attack’

In response to the alleged the intimidation, Save Idaho Horse Racing conducted a live phone campaign, aimed at the gathering support of Idahoans and urging them to call the tribe to express their disapproval of its purported tactics.

Idaho’s democratic process is under attack,” it claimed. “The Coeur d’Alene Tribe’s political group has hired paid thugs to intimidate voters and stop campaign staff. They even committed a felony by bribing our signature gathers to stop working.

“Whether you support horse racing or not, we cannot let this assault on the democratic process go unanswered. Can I transfer to the tribal council right now for free and you can tell them to stop intimidating voters and illegally bribing campaign staff?”

State officials have until June 30 to validate the signatures, which will then be sent to the Secretary of State’s Office for final approval.