Idaho is a middle-of-the-road state when it comes to gambling freedom. It has neither the strictest gambling laws nor the most permissive. Although online poker and gambling are still illegal, Idaho does permit some forms of online betting. The state also isn’t completely opposed to considering expanding its online gaming options at some point in the future.
Having said that, there are no plans or sense of urgency for expanding online betting at this time. Idaho’s constitution clearly outlaws all forms of gambling and poker except for the lottery, bingo and horse racing. Amending state laws to bring internet gaming to Idaho would require considerable willpower. That will power isn’t there yet, but some state lawmakers have alluded to it being a possibility at some point.
Where You Can Bet Online Today in Idaho
The Idaho Constitution has this to say about gambling:
No activities permitted by subsection (1) shall employ any form of casino gambling including, but not limited to, blackjack, craps, roulette, poker, bacarrat, keno and slot machines, or employ any electronic or electromechanical imitation or simulation of any form of casino gambling.
This is the part that would make it difficult to bring online poker or casino games to the state. New legislation or an amendment would be required to change the status quo. This is possible, though. A 2002 proposition succeeded in redefining slot machines at tribal casinos as “not slot machines.” It’s been done once before and it can be done again
The biggest issue is just one of willpower. Idaho has other things to worry about and online betting isn’t high on anyone’s list of priorities. It will most likely be a few years before an expansion of online gaming in Idaho becomes realistic.
Horse Racing Betting
Parimutuel horse racing is permitted at authorized racetracks and off-track betting (OTB) facilities within the state. Idaho is home to two year-round racetracks and a number of fairgrounds that host a few races each year. “Historic horse racing” machines are available at tracks as well. These machines look and act like slot machines but their results are based on the outcome of past horse races.
Two major horse racing websites accept customers from Idaho as well. If you don’t live near a track or simply don’t have the time to visit one in person, online racing is the solution. Even better, you’re not limited to races that take place in Idaho. The top horse racing sites cover dozens of races every day from tracks around the world. You can even watch the races live on your computer.
Fantasy sports betting was tolerated for several years in Idaho. In 2016, the Attorney General issued a press release stating that daily fantasy sports run afoul of state gambling laws. In that same press release, the Attorney General announced that a deal had been reached between Idaho and FanDuel and DraftKings. FanDuel and DraftKings agreed to stop doing business in Idaho and in return, the state agreed not to press the matter any further.
This was bad news for Idahoans, but the upside is that the AG’s press release did note that the agreement included a legal path to resume real money contests in Idaho if the state legislature ever changes the law to legalize daily fantasy sports.
In the years since the AG’s notice, no serious efforts have been made to legalize fantasy sports in Idaho. All major fantasy sites block real money players from Idaho to this day.
Sports Betting in Idaho
Given its restrictive states on fantasy sports, it is no surprise Idaho gambling laws also prohibit sports betting. Current gaming laws do not only prohibit companies from offering sports betting, but they also prohibit players from participating.
Some offshore sportsbooks continue to accept residents of Idaho for online betting contrary to local laws. It is possible in theory for individuals to be charged for participating in online sports betting, but that theory has never been put to the test. A more realistic concern when it comes to betting with offshore bookmakers is being treated fairly and getting a fair game.
It is unlikely Idaho changes its sports betting laws any time soon. For the years we have been following the issue, there has not been a single serious attempt to legalize sports betting in Idaho. The fact that even fantasy sports is a prohibited activity goes to show how far away Idaho is from legalizing actual sports betting.
Online Poker and Gambling
Online poker sites and casinos are prohibited in Idaho for the time being. As mentioned above, the state constitution makes it very clear that only a few specific forms of online betting are permitted. State statute 18-3802 takes it even further by making it a crime to even participate in any form of gambling not expressly permitted by the state:
(1) A person is guilty of gambling if he:
(a) Participates in gambling; or
(b) Knowingly permits any gambling to be played, conducted or dealt upon or in any real or personal property owned, rented, or under the control of the actor, whether in whole or in part.
(2) Gambling is a misdemeanor.
Like most states, the laws of Idaho could presumably be used to prosecute people for playing online poker or gambling at some offshore casino site. This has never happened in Idaho but it does show the state’s anti-gambling side.
State officials haven’t officially come out against online gambling but they also haven’t committed to it. In 2012, the state’s lottery director said this:
“It depends on how it would be structured. We want to make sure that we’re sensitive to the brick and mortar retail network for the basic scratch games. And, we would need legislative and the governor’s approval and we have not suggested that we go down that path in Idaho. But, we do support states’ rights for those that wish to do so.”
Representative Vito Barbieri said that although he doesn’t think it would be possible to expand online gambling in the near future, he would look at the issue closely to determine his stance. While these aren’t exactly glowing endorsements of online gaming, they are at least better than the outright refusal of lawmakers in some other states to even consider the idea.