SALT LAKE CITY — A bill on parimutuel betting didn't even make it out of the starting gate on Monday after its own sponsor put it down by sending it back to languish in rules.
The move by Sen. David Hinkins, R-Orangeville, on SB181effectively kills the bill and was made after the Utah League of Cities and Towns and the Stop Predatory Gambling Coalition voiced their objections.
St. George Mayor Jon Pike, representing the league as well, said legalizing betting on horses could spur a "floodgate" of other forms of gambling on nearby Native American reservations.
Gary Crane from the league echoed that sentiment.
"It does open the gate to additional gambling," he said.
Hinkins said parimutuel betting was not deemed in violation of the Utah constitutional prohibition on gambling in a state Supreme Court decision in the mid-1920s.
Rather, justices said wagering on the outcome of horse racing was not "a game of chance," but instead dependent on the animal's performance.
Hinkins, who races horses, said the activity would be a revenue generator for rural Utah counties — rather than letting the economic gains trot out of state to Idaho and Wyoming where it is legal.Comment on this story
The measure would have allowed voter-approved county-by-county parimutuel betting under a variety of regulations that include state audits, prohibitions of bribery and the establishment of a Breeders Award Account for development and promotion of the horse industry and breeding.
Matt Bartlett, president of the Utah Horse Council, said the lack of parimutuel betting in Utah is driving horse owners to leave the state to participate in a competitive sport in which he suspects gambling is already happening around Utah.
"Regulate it," he said.
After the brief discussion, Hinkins made the motion to send his measure back to rules. It was voted on unanimously.