Les Bois loss puts state horse racing at risk

BOISE - It's been nearly nine months since Les Bois Park announced it was closing its doors; ending horse racing in Boise. It's a closure that's now having a major impact on other horse racing tracks throughout the state.

The Idaho Racing Commission oversees all the horse racing in the state. Chairman Paul Schneider says when Les Bois closed its doors, the commission lost 80 percent of its funding with it.

"The commission has enough money to support it through 2017. If Les Bois Park doesn't come back or something else happens by then, it will be dire straits for racing in the state," Schneider said.

Since the Idaho Supreme Court ruled the Governor's veto of Senate Bill 1011 was invalid, which repealed instant horse racing machines and eventually closed Les Bois Park, the commission's revenue has drastically declined; it went from $875,000 in 2015 to $195,400 for fiscal year 2017.

"Very much in jeopardy, simply because of economics," Schneider said.

A portion of the parimutuel wagering which takes place at these tracks also goes to Idaho schools. In 2015, the Idaho Racing Commission was able to give $573,000 to Idaho schools. They tell KTVB this year they are on track to give $14,800.

A portion of the funding also goes to help pay for veterinarians, stewards, and winning purses for Idaho's other nine tracks. Schneider adds those other tracks did well this past year, but with 80 percent of the budget gone, it's just not enough.

"They need the money from the premier track to keep operating," Schneider said.

Leaving the future of horse racing in Idaho in limbo.

"If you run out of money, you just go away. It's sad, but true," Schneider said.

Treasure Valley Racing, owner of Les Bois Park, just wrapped up their first of a five-year lease with Ada County.

"It's our understanding that they intend to renew for next year. They told us that's their intention," Ada County Commissioner Rick Yzaguirre said. "Beyond that I don't know what they have planned."

Yzaguirre says the county would like to see the land being used, but added everyone should have a better understanding at the end of the legislative session.

"There's a lot of different entities that have interest in it. We've talked to soccer folks, semi-pro soccer, and then some of the other high school soccer leagues." Yzaguirre said. "A possibility of concerts and redoing the venue. There's a ton of opportunity there and I think we'll see some better direction in the next year."

John Sheldon with Treasure Valley Racing told KTVB that in order for Les Bois Park to once again open their doors, the legislature is going to have to pass some type of legislation that authorizes historic horse racing or something similar.

Copyright 2016 KTVB


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