Horse racing may be over for good at Expo Idaho, but the lights at the Turf Club may soon come back on for betting.
Earlier this year, Ada County issued a request for proposals for businesses to lease the more than 12,000 square foot Turf Club. The two-story building, which overlooks the now-abandoned track, once housed a bar and grill for visitors where they could bet on horse races and socialize. It also housed slot machines for a short time before the Idaho legislature banned them in 2016. The club closed soon after.
The county has only received two proposals to lease the building, only one of which the Ada County commissioners have called “legitimate.” The county is now considering a proposal from Las Vegas-based company Midnight Racing, which also owns a horse racing track in Evanston, Wyoming, named Wyoming Downs. The company, owned by Eric Nelson, also operates 15 off-track betting operations throughout Wyoming.
The facility would be open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week and would have approximately six employees managing 5 to 10 betting terminals.
If Midnight Racing starts leasing the Turf Club, it would allow visitors over the age of 18 to place bets on races broadcast from other tracks around the country, including high-profile competitions like the Kentucky Derby. . Ada County is currently collecting feedback on the proposal through a survey available here.
Where would all the money go?
Gambling at this establishment would use a system called pari-mutuel.
This betting system groups all bets of a similar type into a pool where the taxes and Midnight Racing discount would be removed and then the remaining amount would be distributed to the winners. According to documents obtained by BoiseDev through a public records request, Midnight Racing predicted the Turf Club would take $4 million in bets per year, with $3.2 million going to winning players.
The remaining $800,000 would be distributed to several funds each year. This includes the Idaho State Racing Commission’s Small Track Fund, which allocates funds from wagering to help Idaho racetracks with less than $60,000 in daily cash flow. Proceeds would also go to the Breed Fund, which provides financial assistance to breeders and owners of racehorse breeds. Midnight Racing’s proposal estimates that each of these funds would receive $20,000 per year from Turf Club operations.
An additional $8,000 would be distributed to the state’s public school system and the University of Idaho Veterinary Science Program to support work done at the school’s equine reproduction lab. On top of that, an additional $220,000 would go towards purses for winning jockeys, including additional purse fees that off-track betting facilities are required to pay. The Idaho State Racing Commission would receive an additional $80,000.
Approximately $40,000 of the scholarship money will go to the Malad, Idaho Race Track Scholarships at the Oneida County Fairgrounds in southeast Idaho.
The remaining $800,000 that Midnight Racing would withdraw from the betting pool would cover the estimated $200,000 it needs to cover the cost of contracts with live racetracks to simulcast races for visitors to bet on. Anything left over would cover Midnight Racing’s costs and contribute to its bottom line.