Idaho schools have a horse in Prop 1 debate

Idaho’s public schools would receive a slight funding increase if voters approve a November ballot initiative to legalize historical horse racing betting.

The horse racing issue will appear on the Nov. 6 general election ballot as Proposition 1. If a majority of voters approve Prop 1, one half of 1 percent of all wagering funds would be sent to public schools via the Idaho State Racing Commission.

Prop 1 specifically relates to betting on horse races that have already taken place via instant betting terminals. The passage of Prop 1 would not directly address live horse racing, although Prop 1 backers say live horse racing won’t be sustainable without approval of historical horse racing.

It’s unknown what half of 1 percent would translate to in dollars, because the payment would depend on how much people wager on historical horse racing. But there is precedent. The Legislature legalized historical horse racing (sometimes called instant horse racing) in 2013 and then the courts repealed it in 2015.

  • In 2014, instant racing generated $196,891.34 for schools.
  • In 2015, instant racing generated $519,677.65 for schools.

On top of that, schools receive a portion of proceeds for live horse racing betting.

  • In 2014, live horse racing generated $14,483.80 for Idaho schools.
  • In 2015, the total was $14,625.50.

If legalized, historic horse racing would provide a boost to schools, but the increase would represent just a small fraction of the state’s $1.8 billion annual public school budget.

Todd Dvorak, a spokesman for the Campaign to Save Idaho Horse Racing, predicted that the increases could grow over time if voters approve Prop 1.

“Our campaign makes the case that over time, historical horse racing and a healthy live racing industry will contribute millions to public schools,” Dvorak said.

 

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