Idaho is home to a fair number of land-based gambling options for a state of its size and population, but online betting options are sparse. Mobile sports betting, daily fantasy sports and online gambling are all prohibited by state law.
That leaves online horse racing betting as the sole form of online gaming permitted in Idaho. In-person gambling options consist of trackside horse racing betting, seven tribal casinos and the Idaho Lottery.
The prospects of Idaho legalizing mobile sports betting or online gambling in the near future appear dim at present. There are no plans in place to expand the state’s online gaming options and state lawmakers have declined to pursue the matter.
Where to Bet Online in Idaho
The Idaho Constitution says this 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.
Because Idaho’s broad prohibition of gambling is written into the state’s constitution, legalization would require a constitutional amendment. As a result, legalizing sports betting or online gambling is not only contingent on lawmakers successfully passing a bill into law by a two-thirds majority but also upon voters approving a constitutional amendment.
That does not mean sports betting or online gambling are no-hope issues, though. A 2002 proposition succeeded in redefining slot machines at tribal casinos as “not slot machines.” If lawmakers and voters were able to agree on amending the constitution in favor of gambling once before, they can do it again.
Idaho Horse Racing Betting
Parimutuel horse racing betting is legal in Idaho. Horse racing fans may place wagers in-person at tracks and off-track betting facilities (OTBs) or online through licensed advance deposit wagering operators (ADWs).
The Idaho Racing Commission is responsible for overseeing horse racing, parimutuel wagering and ensuring licensees comply with state law and Racing Commission rules. ID Code § 54-2501-2517 establishes the legal framework for horse racing and wagering in Idaho. Additional rules issued by the Racing Commission can be seen here.
- Pocatello Downs
- Sandy Downs
- Rupert Downs
- Jerome County Fair
- Oneida County Fair
- Cassia County Fair
- Eastern Idaho State Fair
Off-Track Betting Locations (OTBs)
Online Racing Betting in Idaho
Most major horse racing betting sites accept customers from Idaho. Advance deposit wagering (online betting) is permitted under ID Code § 54-2512-10 for customers who are 18 or older.
Horse racing betting sites are required by law to acquire a license from the Idaho Racing Commission prior to offering their services to residents. Licensed operators must pay a 10% source market fee to the Commission. Source market fees collected are distributed to racing purses and other programs designed to support the local horse racing industry.
Additional rules regarding advance deposit wagering in Idaho can be viewed here.
Idaho Daily Fantasy Sports
Daily fantasy sports sites such as DraftKings and FanDuel were permitted to operate in Idaho prior to 2016 despite a lack of legal clarity. That changed in 2016 when the Attorney General issued a press release announcing it is the opinion of the Office of the Attorney General that daily fantasy sports constitute illegal gambling under Idaho law.
Then-Attorney General Lawrence Wasden explained:
The concern I have is that the paid daily sports offerings provided by these companies constitute gambling under Idaho law. I have a duty to enforce and uphold that law. I commend the companies for negotiating in good faith and agreeing not to make these contests available in Idaho.
The press release also announced that the Office of the Attorney General had reached an agreement with FanDuel and DraftKings that would see both companies cease all operations in Idaho. In return, the Attorney General chose not to pursue charges against either company for violating state law.
This was obviously bad news for Idahoans, but the upside is that the AG’s press release noted 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.
Sports Betting in Idaho
Sports betting is illegal in Idaho and there are no efforts underway at this time to change that. Idaho is one of just a few states in the Union that have expressed little-to-no interest in even exploring the possibility of legalization.
Idaho lawmakers have not introduced a single bill to legalize mobile betting or retail sportsbooks in the years since the Supreme Court struck down PASPA.
Shortly after the decision, Idaho Assistant Chief Deputy Attorney General Brian Kane said in an interview that the odds of legalizing sports betting in Idaho were long.
“To me, it’s so uphill that I haven’t even heard a whisper of a proponent,” he said. “The Constitution is very clear.”
He went on to explain that other states have an easier path to legalization compared to Idaho:
“You’re actually seeing the states that are doing it – I don’t want to say they were predisposed to gambling – but they had a much more favorable regulatory regime to amend.”
However, as neighboring states legalize or consider legalizing sports betting, Idaho lawmakers may be convinced to change their tune as gambling dollars flow across state lines. If that does happen, lawmakers will have to overcome the challenge of amending the state constitution and receiving the approval of a majority of voters.
Online Gambling in Idaho
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.
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. Over the intervening years, Idaho lawmakers have come no closer to legalizing online gambling.