Parimutuel betting bill is killed by its own sponsor in the Utah State Legislature

Posted at 5:38 PM, Mar 04, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-04 19:39:18-05

SALT LAKE CITY — A bill to allow parimutuel betting in Utah will not be considered this year.

Sen. David Hinkins, R-Orangeville, defended his bill as one that would generate money for rural Utah counties. But at the end of a brief hearing before the Senate Natural Resources Committee on Monday, he killed it.

“I imagine they fell in love with it over in Rules, they kept it there for two weeks,” he said, referring to the Rules Committee, which determines what bills get hearings. “I’ll send it over to them and let them continue their love fest with this bill.”

Sen. Hinkins argued betting on horse racing did not violate Utah’s constitutional prohibition on gambling because it was not a game of chance. The Utah Supreme Court found that in a 1924 ruling, he said.

The bill faced stiff opposition from Governor Gary Herbert and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Both oppose gambling.

The Utah League of Cities and Towns testified on Monday it would love the revenues, but opposed the bill because it feared it could open the door to other forms of gambling, particularly on Native American reservations.

Matthew Bartlett of the Utah Horse Council testified in support of the bill and argued it was an “economic boon” to the horse industry in the state.

“I think what’s going on right now is you have gambling that’s occurring anyways,” he said. “We should simply regulate it.”