Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Double Down celebrating anniversary this weekend

Double Down Betting Bar & Grill, 3078 Outlet Boulevard, is inviting the community to celebrate its one-year anniversary with a Greater Idaho Falls Chamber of Commerce Ribbon Cutting and a full weekend of entertainment. The ribbon cutting will be Friday at 10 a.m. In the evening, entertainment starts at 7 with the Two Brothers Hypno Show, followed by karaoke and a live DJ.

On Saturday night, there will be live music by the Saloonatics. If you have a brand, bring your iron down to brand the bar at 6 p.m. There will be an old-time photo booth with prizes for people with the best Old West attire.

It has not been a year without controversy for Double Down. The issue of historical racing machines came front and center earlier this year in the Idaho Legislature, with lawmakers passing a bill banning them, claiming they were too similar to slot machines. The bill was vetoed by Gov. Butch Otter.

A little background: Pari-mutuel betting on horses in Idaho has been legal since 1963, and the Legislature authorized simulcasting in 1990. Before July 2011, however, simulcasting was only allowed at live horse racing facilities, Sandy Downs in Bonneville County's case. That year, the Legislature passed a bill allowing simulcast horse betting from other venues, supporters arguing that off-track locations could provide a better atmosphere, food and other incentives to attract paying customers. The 2011 bill did not allow new simulcast betting venues to be set up, but instead allowed existing operations like the one at Sandy Downs to move.

In 2014 the Legislature approved HB220, allowing pari-mutuel betting on historical horse races, which is done on machines. When a player makes a wager on the machine, a race is randomly selected from a video library of over 60,000 previous races. Identifying information such as the location and date of the race, and the names of the horses and jockeys, is not shown.

The player is able to view a "Skill Graph" chart from the Daily Racing Form, showing information such as jockeys' and trainers' winning percentages, and based on this handicapping information the player picks the projected top three runners in order of finish. Many players use a "handi helper" feature, which allows the machine to automatically make the selections.

Early versions of the terminals looked like self-serve wagering terminals, but over time some began to mimic slot machines, with symbols on spinning reels showing the results of the player's wager and the video of the actual race consigned to a 2-inch square in the corner of the screen.

In Idaho, this drew the ire of anti-gambling forces and also Native American tribes, the latter considering the machines competition to what they offer on their reservation casinos. Senate Bill 1011 repealed the Legislature's prior approval of the devices, passing the House by a 49-21 vote and the Senate 25-9.

Otter vetoed the bill in April, and the Senate’s 19-16 subsequent vote to override the veto fell five votes short. Otter has called for a moratorium on any new instant racing machines and indicated that he wants a special investigative team to look into whether the machines violate the Idaho Constitution, which prohibits slot machines.

Double Down's phone number is 521-5102. For questions on gaming, call 521-4729.