Horses and Beer at the Statehouse 

UPDATE: House and Senate pass measures, send to Governor for signature

UPDATE: The State Senate passed House Bill 191 on a 26-9 vote to authorize pari-mutuel betting licensees to transfer operations to new off-site off-track-betting parlors.The measure, already approved by the House, has been sent to the Governor for his signature.

UPDATE: The House approved Senate Bill 1187 on a 67-0 vote to amend existing law, allowing electronic funds transfers for the payment of beer or wine by a licensed retailer. The measure, already approved by the Senate, has been sent to the Governor for his signature.

Alcohol and gambling--not your traditional topics for a Monday morning debate. Yet at precisely the same time (8:30 a.m.) on April 4, two committees of the Idaho Legislature considered a couple of themes heard more often in country songs than at the Statehouse: horses and beer.

The House State Affairs Committee got a brief primer on Idaho's history with alcohol sales before considering Senate Bill 1187, a new method for payment of beer or wine by a licensed retailer.

In 1933, the 21st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution repealed Prohibition, giving states control over alcoholic beverages. Since then, Idaho has operated under a three-tiered regulation system with well-defined distinctions between manufacturers, distributors and retailers for beer and wine products. A critical component of the current system is the so-called "cash law," requiring cash payment from a retailer to a distributor at time of delivery.

"My retailers have 50,000-100,000 items at their locations," said Roy Eiguren, representing the Northwest Grocery Association. "And there are only two items that do not qualify for credit terms: beer and wine."

The committee unanimously approved SB 1187, which would allow retailers to pay for their beer and wine deliveries with an electronic cash transfer, taking no longer than five days for full payment. Credit cards would not be considered as an acceptable payment. The measure, which has already passed through the Senate, heads for a full House vote, before an anticipated signature from Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter.

Meanwhile, the odds of the Senate State Affairs Committee passing an off-track betting bill were much closer. Lawmakers considered a measure that would allow off-track betting licenses at Idaho's eight county fair racetracks to be transferred to restaurants, or taverns, which could set up their new, standalone betting parlors.

"I can guarantee you that four of the eight tracks will immediately take advantage of this," said Duayne Diderickson, former executive director of the Idaho State Racing Commission. "And I bet this creates a minimum of two to five new jobs at each location."

If approved, the bill would allow racetracks, each at a county fair location, to move their off-track betting operation to a more appropriate spot in the same county. Supporters said new OTB facilities would offer a higher quality venue.

"There would be no other betting or gambling devices on the premises," promised bill sponsor Republican Rep. Carlos Bilbao of Emmett. "And the gambling would only be on horses, no dogs."

Bilbao represents Gem County where one of the eight tracks is located. Bilbao said Gem County Fair's aging facility is not suitable for OTB operations. The other locations eligible for the license transfer are at county fairgrounds in Blackfoot, Burley, Rupert, Jerome, Idaho Falls, Malad City and Pocatello.

The committee voted 5-4 to send the bill to the full Senate for a final vote. The bill has already passed through the House.

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