How Will We Know When Idaho Sports Betting is a Legitimate Possibility?

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Oct 6, 2023 12:00 AM
Idaho sports betting has so far remained off the state’s radar. How will we know if that changes in the future?

With just a couple of months to go before 2024 state legislature meetings get underway, a familiar question has once again bubbled to the surface: What’s the deal with Idaho sports betting

This can be answered succinctly: Nothing is brewing on the sports betting in Idaho front. Zip. Zilch. Nada. Few states, in fact, have been as outright opposed to legal sports betting as Idaho. As a result, experts throughout the industry continue to view Idaho sports betting as little more than a distant possibility.

Well, then, let’s try looking off into the distance, shall we?

If and when sports betting becomes a priority consideration for The Gem State, there will invariably be bread crumbs laid beforehand. What will those breadcrumbs be? How might we pick up on them? Are any signs of change currently afoot? Let’s explore the state of sports betting in Idaho—or rather, the lack of it—once more.

Here are Signs to Look for When Attempting to See Whether Idaho Sports Betting will Become a Priority Among House and Senate Members

The first sign that the perception of Idaho sports betting might be changing is a fairly obvious one: discussion. State legislature members actually need to talk about the legalization of sports gambling. That’s not something they have really ever done.

Indeed, there have been cursory conversations scattered throughout the past few years. But no substantive debates have taken place. The Idaho sports betting discourse is predominantly driven by industry experts and analysts. Any official conversations typically exist to dispel the prospect of legal sports betting. 

Beyond the obvious, though, we should be on the lookout for a couple of other signs. Let’s parse them using some trusty ol’ bullet points:

  • The expansion of casino gaming: While there are seven casinos peppered throughout the state, Idaho’s gaming laws limit their offerings. Each location is only able to offer electronic gambling options. They do not have live table games or poker rooms, according to the American Casino Guide. The state has not looked at expanding or tweaking their casino laws since 1992, when a bill to broaden Idaho casino laws was shot down by voters on the general electoral ballot. If The Gem State ever starts talking about branching out to live-gambling options on the casino level again, it will be a good sign for their willingness to discuss sports betting. 
  • Daily Fantasy Sports: Many states without legal sports betting allow Daily Fantasy Sports sites to operate in their region. At the very, a bunch do not have specific laws against DFS operations. However, The Gem State is an exception. Idaho officially outlawed Daily Fantasy Sports back in May 2016. If they ever discuss—or actually change—their DFS policy, it might provide an opening to debate the merits of legal sports betting in Idaho.
  • The Future of Horse Racing: Right now, betting on horse racing is legal in Idaho. That probably won’t change anytime. Though many states, including Idaho, have outlawed dog racing, this legislative shift has yet to trickle over to horse racing. However, there’s always a chance that changes. Failing that, we have seen mass closures of horse racing facilities all over the country in recent years. Interest in the sport isn’t as high, and people are less inclined to visit brick-and-mortar locations to get their gambling fix. Pretty much every data point shows that people would much rather bet with online sportsbooks in the United States. So, if any of the Idaho horse tracks start to experience economic difficulties or outright closures, it could compel the state to suss out alternative means of revenue—like sports betting.

Other potential signs exist, such as a stark shift in politics. If Idaho starts electing more Democrats into office, that could be a harbinger of change for their sports betting stance. But the three issues we outlined above are the most important (and likely) factors to impact how the state treats sports gambling in the future.

How Far Away is Idaho from Giving Meaningful Consideration to Sports Betting?

With all of this in mind, we have to ask: Just how far away is Idaho from doing something, anything, that implies their views on sports betting may be changing? Obviously, we don’t have a concrete answer. But we’d be remiss if we didn’t note that Idaho remains aggressively against all pro-sports-betting agendas.

Some had hoped Idaho would change their tune as more and more states legalized sports betting. That hasn’t been the case. Almost 40 states have legalized sports or have legislation to green light it pending. This includes basically every state within close proximity to Idaho. Five of six have added sports betting to their economic portfolio: Montana, Wyoming, Washington, Nevada and Oregon. 

Yet, this increase in legal sports betting access has not prompted Idaho to reconsider their own position. In fact, ever since the United States Supreme Court overturned the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act in May 2018, Idaho is one of the very few states that has never submitted a bill to legalize sports betting. 

This inaction sends a powerful message. The gist of it? Idaho sports betting remains a non-priority, and we’ll most likely be waiting for signs that their stance is changing for at least a few more years, if not much longer.

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Meet the author

Dan Favale

Dan first began writing about sports back in 2011. At the time, his expertise lied in the NBA and NFL. More than one decade, that remains the case. But he's also expanded his catalog to include extensive knowledge and analysis on the NHL, MLB, tennis, NASCAR, college ba...

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