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Horse racing in jeopardy at Sandy Downs

It’s the end of horse racing season, and possibly the end of racing at Sandy Downs all together. Some people believe recent legislation banning the use of instant horse racing machines is a huge blow to the live horse racing industry.

Arin Chunn, tote operator at Sandy Downs, said, “It’s devastating. It’s an industry that has been around for years and years and years, and it’s just really sad to see it go.”

Instant horse racing machines have a bigger impact on the live horse racing world than one would think.

Melissa Bernard, CEO of IdaRacing, said, “The money that’s generated on the historical racing terminals helps fund the purse structure at Sandy Downs.”

On the final day of the racing season, patrons worry for the future of Sandy Downs.

Thomas Cooke said, “I think it’s really sad because there’s a lot of people that really enjoy the races.”

“As a farrier here in south east Idaho and all over the Northwest region, this racing is so important,” said tote operator, Michael Wayne Smith.

“Well I hate to see it come to an end,” said Julie Cooke. “We’ve watched it go downhill over the last couple of years. Fewer races, fewer horses involved, less money to win, so it’s kind of taken some of the spirit out of it for us.”

It isn’t just the races that end.

“We’ve had to lay off 15 people,” Bernard said. “You’ll see a lot of blue shirts here today at the race track. It’s a staggering number of people that we employ. Those people were laid off last Thursday and today is the end of the race season. There’s going to be a lot more people to follow. It’s just, these people are contributing members of society, they are paying taxes, buying retail and now all of the sudden without notice, they’re unemployed.

“I mean there’s so many people, and so many lives, and so much history and everything that is in Sandy Downs,” Chunn said. “I mean you can look around today and see how many people actually show up and are actually passionate about horse racing.”

“So now we’re facing a lot of uncertainty, there’s a little bit of revenue that will roll over to next year for a purse structure but after that there’s no other revenue stream,” said Bernard.

Sandy Downs will be submitting revisions to the legislation in hopes to keep horse racing alive in Idaho.

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