- Associated Press - Monday, April 6, 2015

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - The Idaho Senate failed to override Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter’s veto on legislation that would have made roughly 250 slot-like betting machines in Idaho illegal on Monday, despite publicly acknowledging that the governor did not follow the constitution’s notification requirement.

The Senate voted 19-16, just five votes shy of the required two-thirds support needed to flip a veto in a chamber. Six lawmakers who originally voted in favor of the repeal of instant horse racing terminals switched their vote to halt the override.

The vote came just hours after Otter announced the veto of betting terminals known as instant horse racing machines. Otter delayed nearly three days to reveal his verdict, even though the deadline to sign the legislation was on April 4.

But Otter did put a moratorium on any new instant racing machines in the state. The governor also asked the Idaho Legislature to join him in appointing a special investigator to assess the legality of the machines that are currently in use.

“I neither expected nor desired it to supplant live horse racing in Idaho, and it is my firm intention to limit and restrict this type of gambling in Idaho to race tracks,” said Otter in a statement dated April 3.

However, the Senate read three letters Monday from President Pro Tem Brent Hill, Senate Minority Leader Michelle Stennett and the Senate secretary stating that none of them received the veto by the signing deadline as required by the state’s constitution.

“Very candidly, the Senate wanted to address the (veto) override on the merits,” said Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis. “And if the statute means what it appears to some to say, then we’ll let our friends in black robes and courthouses sort through what that means.”

Davis added that while he expected a lawsuit, it would not come from the Idaho Senate.

Earlier that day, Otter told reporters that he vetoed the legislation Friday, but alerted Hill of the veto.

When asked if his actions met the constitutional definition of official notification of a veto, Otter said he couldn’t answer that question.

Known as instant horse racing, the machines allow bettors to place wages on prior horse races with no identifiable information.

Idaho lawmakers approved legalizing the machines in 2013. At the time, questions over the legality of the machines were almost nonexistent and the legislation sailed through both chambers with almost no opposition. Yet a growing number of lawmakers have since claimed they were duped into approving an illegal gambling terminal.

Currently three out of the state’s eight licensed race tracks have instant racing machines installed.

Backers of the bill - including the Coeur d’Alene Tribe - have argued this legislative session that the machines are essentially slot machines, which are illegal under Idaho’s Constitution. It was not immediately clear if the tribe will file a lawsuit challenging Otter’s actions.

“Idahoans asked our Governor to defend the Idaho Constitution by repealing instant racing, and sadly the Governor made a clear choice to look the other way,” said Chairman Chief Allan of the Coeur d’Alene Tribe in a statement. “He turned his back on the Legislature and Idahoans in order to protect his friends and financiers.”

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