Although smarting from their narrow election-day loss, anti-lottery forces are regrouping for a new attack on the proposed state-run enterprise they say will only lead to high-stakes gambling and the social ills it brings.
"We won't rule out anything at this point," said Randy Furniss, director of the anti-lottery umbrella group Consider.After losing the second round with voters on a legalized lottery by less than four points on Tuesday, Furniss said a court challenge could be mounted as well as a new legislative assault on the proposition.
Implementing legislation is already on the books, creating a commission and lending it $1 million - at 10 percent interest - to get a lottery going. It takes effect once the vote is certified, which must come by Nov. 23.
Lottery proponents, overcoming a well-financed opposition that outspent them by more than 200-to-one, were optimistic that Idahoans who have been spending tens of millions of dollars on lotteries in bordering Oregon and Washington will be spending that money at home by spring.
"I think the optimum time would probably be June or July if everything goes as planned," said Sen. Michael Blackbird, D-Kellogg, the chief legislative proponent of the lottery, but he speculated tickets could go on sale much sooner.
The debate was so heated that the election drew the third highest number of voters ever to go to the polls in Idaho, more than 408,000. More people voted on the lottery proposition than cast ballots for president.
The interest of much of the state's electorate focused on the lottery after a campaign that became embroiled in charges and rebuttals over the ramifications of the constitutional change. The battle pitted morality against economic enhancement in a confrontation that saw voters reject the advice of several state officials and religious leaders.
An official of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints acknowledged that his church's members were critical elements of the ill-fated campaign.
"The church didn't put a penny into this campaign," said Gordon Thatcher, the regional representative for Bonneville County. "Not one cent. But a lot of church members put money into the campaign as citizens because they felt it was a moral issue."
The huge war chest the opposition accumulated had its impact. A 1986 lottery initiative, that was eventually voided by the courts, was approved with 60 percent of the vote, carrying 32 of the state's 44 counties.
But after Consider's intense campaign-ending media blitz, only 52 percent of the voters backed the proposal on Tuesday, and it was defeated in 19 counties.
Despite that erosion in 1986 support, however, Furniss said the decisive factor was the state's most populous county - Ada - where the amendment passed with nearly 64 percent of the vote.
"I felt all along we needed to place above 40 percent in Ada County to win, and we didn't do that," he said.
But Furniss said the next attack could be on the implementing legislation. He backed a proposal to strip any provisions that lottery revenues could be spent on advertising the game.
"Make it stand on its own," he said. "It will effectively kill it."