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N.D. LEGISLATURE: Bill would legalize "Instant Racing" video terminal

BISMARCK - A Mandan racehorse owner said the Legislature must legalize a form of off-track betting known as "Instant Racing" if horse racing is to survive in North Dakota.

BISMARCK - A Mandan racehorse owner said the Legislature must legalize a form of off-track betting known as "Instant Racing" if horse racing is to survive in North Dakota.

"Without this bill, we will not have live racing in North Dakota," Scott Horst told the House Judiciary Committee on Monday. He was testifying in favor of House Bill 1509.

He and Horse Race North Dakota General Manager Rob Lynch of Fargo said the expansion of off-track betting via the system can help drive up the amount of money bet in the state and, in turn, increase the amount of funds to the State Racing Commission.

The commission's funds subsidize the two live horse racing tracks in North Dakota at Belcourt, N.D., and the North Dakota Horse Park in Fargo.

The commission has about $800,000 in its funds now and gives about $400,000 per year to the tracks, Horst said.

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Instant Racing is a trademarked name for a system of video terminals that allow betting on previously run races by concealing the name of the track, horse, jockey and outcome.

The bettors receive the information in a randomized, anonymous form. Then a video shows the race as it originally happened and the bettor finds out how he did.

Lynch told legislators that Instant Racing was developed at Oaklawn track in Arkansas, a 100-year-old track that was becoming decrepit until Instant Racing terminals helped raise its income.

He said it will be up to the state Racing Commission to decide how many of the machines should be licensed through public-spirited or charitable groups, such as Horse Race North Dakota.

State Racing Director Randy Blaseg told the committee the Racing Commission favored the bill.

But Warren DeKrey of Bismarck, speaking for the North Dakota Council of Gambling Problems, opposed legalization of the terminals.

"I maintain these are slot machines," he told the legislators, and slot machines are illegal except at American Indian casinos.

The committee took no immediate action on the bill.

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Cole works for Forum Communications Co., which owns the Herald.

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