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It was dead once but now SB 183 – a bill that would explore the possibility of introducing historical horse racing gaming to Montana – has passed the Senate, and will be  taken up in its first hearing in the House on April 2.

The legislation is faring well and proponents, like Dan Fuchs, are optimistic that it will make it through the state legislature. The bill failed, 30-20, during second reading in the Senate due to incomplete and inaccurate information that was reported back from the finance committee, explained Fuchs. Once accurate information was given to the Senators who had switched their votes during second reading, they asked that the legislation be reconsidered which is allowed if requested within the first 24 hours of the previous action. It then passed 26-23.

Essentially, SB183 gives a green light to the Montana Board of Horseracing to move forward in exploring the potential of historical horse racing (HHR) gaming, and developing a program on how it will be implemented. Fuchs said that he believes that the Board currently has the authority to do that without legislative approval but the board was not willing to take up that authority without a nod from the state legislature. Fuchs is a former Montana state legislator with a life-long passion for horse racing. He also owns Triangle Public Affairs, a government relations company, which represents Exacta Systems, the primary marketer of HHR wagering terminals.

The bill was amended at the recommendation of the Montana Tavern Association to assure that the Montana Board of Horseracing can take no action to implement gaming until their plan is presented to and approved by the next state legislature. With that amendment the Association, which had been the primary adversary of the bill, now stands behind it, said Fuchs.

HHR would bring to casinos a new option for gamblers, proceeds from which would be largely distributed to horse racing venues in the state. The program has already proven successful in bringing live horse racing back to Wyoming, and a few other states. In Wyoming, in just six years, all tracks are once again in operation, and the Wyoming breeder program distributed $1.7 million to breeders in 2017.

Tom Tucker, the Executive Director of the Montana Board of Horse Racing estimates that only 500 HHR wagering terminals placed in Montana casinos would generate $510,375 for the MBOHR which could fund up to 38 additional racing days in Montana.

HHR wagering is based on real horse races from the past that have been scrubbed of all identifying information except for stats that still allow gamblers to apply the same kind of analysis they might give any horse race. The major difference that sets HHR apart from traditional casino style games is that the results of the games are not random.