Idaho Sports Betting May Not Yield Enough Revenue to Generate Interest

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Mar 7, 2024 12:00 AM
At present, Idaho sports betting is not even a far-off possibility. For that to change, the potential for tax revenue may need to increase.

As most of us realize by now, the future of Idaho sports betting is shrouded in inaction. Ever since the Supreme Court of the United States overturned the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act back in 2018, The Gem State has shown virtually no interest in joining the list of states to legalize sports gambling.

At one time, Idaho’s absence from the industry wasn’t very notable. After all, a half-decade ago, sports betting in the United States wasn’t legal in a majority of places. But everything has changed now that we’re in 2024. By the end of the year, 40 or more states, in addition to the District of Columbia, are expected to have legalized some form of sports gambling. That’s basically 80 percent of the country—and potentially more.

And yet, sports betting in Idaho isn’t even kind of, sort of on the radar. It has not received consideration during state legislature meetings in years. Some experts consider it among the two or three most likely states to legalize sports betting last, if not at all

Make no mistake, this is not at all routine. Most states without legal sports betting at least continue to discuss it and consider it. The outlooks for sports betting in Texas and sports betting in California, for instance, may be ambiguous. But conversations are at least happening.

So what gives when it comes to the legalization of sports betting in Idaho…or lack thereof? Why is the state so against it? And what will it take for the status quo to shift?

Projected Revenue isn’t Lucrative Enough for Idaho Sports Betting to Get Off the Ground

In reality, there are a myriad of reasons that Idaho sports betting has failed to gain any real traction. State legislature members have often cited concerns over increases in problem gambling. They have also harped on the commercialization of gambling when it comes to Idaho online sports betting. Some will be quick to point out The Gem State’s complete lack of professional sports teams.

As it turns out, Idaho’s limited in-state sports market may be the driving force behind widespread opposition. Jordan Kaye wrote about this specific dilemma for the Idaho Press

“Since New Jersey became the first state outside of Nevada to legalize sports betting, $26 billion has been wagered in the state. Of that, New Jersey has collected over $200 million from either taxes or its revenue share. OK, great, but Idaho isn’t pulling in that type of money. Fair. Let’s scale back a bit. Since sports betting launched in Wyoming, which has a population one-third of Idaho’s, the state has pulled in almost a quarter-of-a-million dollars on over $75 million wagered. That’s not exactly jaw-dropping, but it’s not bad for doing nothing. Idaho doesn’t care. It’s not that politicians in the state aren’t drafting pro-gaming legislation, they’re not even considering it.”

While Kaye says that $250,000 per year isn’t bad for doing nothing, the rollout of Idaho sports betting wouldn’t be that effortless. Infrastructures must be created. Regulators must be trained and paid. It really is a whole to-do.

Still, extra revenue is extra revenue. And Idaho sports betting would certainly be a growth market if they allow residents to bet on college football. The Boise State program is basically a religion. But even the prospect of growth apparently doesn’t matter.

State Officials Seem to Think Idaho Generates Enough Revenue Already 

Kaye’s stance on Idaho sports betting is apparently spot-on. Consider comments made by State Rep. Brent Crane, the Assistant Majority Leader in Idaho’s House of Representatives (via Kaye):

“‘No one has talked to me in regards to sports betting within the state of Idaho. There’s been no conversations regarding that. It’s virtually been a non issue.’” But wouldn’t the state want to add another easy revenue stream? ‘In fact, we gave over $600 million back in tax relief this year and $600 million in tax relief last year,’ Crane said. ‘It’s not that the state of Idaho is struggling to generate revenue.’”

This logic tracks. Sure, $250,000 extra per year could seem useful. But if Idaho has a budget surplus of $600 million, that $250,000 doesn’t even amount to 0.25 percent in additional funds. So, you can understand why officials aren’t in such a rush to legalize Idaho sports betting for the financial implications alone.

Which raises the question: How can this change?

Could Idaho Sports Betting Exceed Expected Revenue?

Inflating the potential returns on Idaho sports betting isn’t a prospect with many options. Short of The Gem State bringing an MLS, NBA, NFL, NHL or MLB franchise into the market, there’s not much leeway with which to work.

All of that said, Idaho could do a couple of things to try blowing past revenue forecasts. First and foremost, they can’t be one of the states that disallows betting on college sports. Boise State basketball and football events figure to be big drivers of any Idaho sports betting legalization. Where some states prevent residents from wagering on in-market collegiate squads, The Gem State must go in the complete opposite direction.

Comparably important: While certain states legalize only on-site sports betting, Idaho online sports betting should be a part of any gambling legislature. The vast majority of wagers placed in the United States are processed through a mobile sportsbook. Allowing sports betting online in Idaho ensures the largest number of customers possible will have access to the industry. It is also more likely to invite bets on out of state professional teams.

Of course, none of this means a darn thing unless Idaho officials are open to actually exploring the issue of sports betting. And it remains unclear what it’ll take for that to happen. In all likelihood, additional studies must be done that prove Idaho sports betting can be a bigger-ticket financial draw. Then, and only then, could we see the topic gaining legitimate steam.

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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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