Idaho Legal Sports Betting Revenue: How Much Money is State Leaving on the Table?

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Sep 4, 2022 08:00 PM
Idaho Legal Sports Betting Revenue: How Much Money is State Leaving on the Table?

Don't hold your breath for Idaho legal sports betting anytime soon.

This is the message that has been delivered time after time by the state. Whenever the issue of legal sports betting in Idaho arises, it isn't even met with intense debate, let alone an open mind. It's simply shrugged off and deemed something less than a non-priority.

"No one has talked to me in regards to sports betting within the state of Idaho," Rep. Brent Crane, the Assistant Majority Leader in Idaho's House of Representatives, recently said, per the Idaho Press. "There's been no conversations regarding that. It's virtually a non-issue."

Even by the standard of hard-line stances against sports wagering, this is pretty stubborn. There is now legal sports betting in the U.S. for 30 states, plus Washington, D.C. Other places, such as California and Kansas, are soon expected to join the fold. You'd think this might put pressure on Idaho to follow suit—or to at least consider the legalization of sports betting in general.

Yet, for a multitude of reasons, the state continues to resist. And in doing so, Idaho is leaving plenty of sports betting revenue on the table—despite what it might think.

Idaho Doesn't Care About Sports Betting Revenue

Digging into projections for sports betting revenue is not a novel approach when speaking of states that have yet to legalize gambling. On the contrary, in a capitalist country like the USA, everything comes back to how much money is being left on the table.

At the same time, Idaho continues to insist it doesn't need the tax revenue. As Rep. Brent Crane said, once more via the Idaho Press: "In fact, we gave over $600 million back in tax relief this year and $600 million in tax relief last year. It’s not that the State of Idaho is struggling to generate revenue."

This may be true, but is Idaho really in a position to turn down what's ostensibly free money? Remember: A refusal to legalize sports betting doesn't actually prevent sports betting. Many sites from our reviews of the top online sportsbooks will allow Idaho residents to register for an account, submit wagers and process payouts, and people also always have the option of traveling to different states to bet on sports.

Still, Idaho doesn't seem to think they'll gain enough to rewrite the letter of the law. Their constitution states that "Gambling is contrary to public policy." Never mind that times have changed since that was written. Setting up a sports betting infrastructure takes an investment of time and money. Idaho needs to be sure there will be interest in wagering on sports before committing to it.

And as many officials have pointed out, why would a state with no professional sports franchise in any of the five major North American Leagues—NFL, NBA, MLB, MLS, NHL—be a hotbed for betting?

Potential for Idaho Sports Betting Revenue Higher Than You Think

Idaho's skepticism surrounding the interest in sports betting within the state is not unreasonable. But it's also overweighting concerns about their sports market. Betting on college football is among the most lucrative markets in the United States, and Idaho is home to a powerhouse Division I program in Boise State. Investments in their college football odds alone will be worth lots of money.

This says nothing of how Idaho residents consume professional sports. They may not have their own franchises to root for, but their proximity to Colorado ensures plenty of people will be cheering on teams like the Denver Broncos (NFL), Denver Nuggets (NBA), Colorado Rockies (MLB) and Colorado Avalanche (NHL). Beyond that, sports fandom no longer knows specific locations. The internet has ensured every sport is accessible to everyone. There could be a bunch of Jacksonville Jaguars (NFL) or Kansas City Royals (MLB) fans in Idaho for all we know.

But let's throw all of that away for a minute. There is a sports betting market somewhat similar to Idaho's that has already legalized and implemented betting: West Virginia. Like Idaho, they don't have pro sports franchises in the state. They're home to some bigger college programs, but their fandom is otherwise tied to pro organizations in different places like Maryland, Pennsylvania and Washington D.C. West Virginia also happens to have a population fairly similar to that in Idaho. The latest census has them at around 1.79 million residents, just a breath behind Idaho at 1.83 million.

And do you want to how much tax revenue West Virginia has raked in since legalizing sports betting in 2018? It's over $9.8 million—or nearly $2.5 million per year.

It's Time for Sports Betting in Idaho

Should Idaho expect to perfectly replicate the money earned from sports betting in a place like West Virginia? Of course not. But they shouldn't be far off, if they're off at all, either.

At the very least, places like West Virginia are proof there is a sports betting market in the state of Idaho. And by pretending there's not, Idaho isn't doing anything noble. They're only costing themselves money.

This clearly needs to change. And while that's easier said than done, it also needs to be said. Idaho, again, hasn't even proposed legislation to legalize sports betting. That is a gross oversight at a time when gambling has turned into a legitimate industry.

Unfortunately, though, sports betting enthusiasts in Idaho can only cross their fingers the state sings a different tune in years to come—because entering the summer of 2022, nothing is slated to change.

Take a look at this list of the top online sportsbooks so you can decide which one will work for all of your sports betting needs:

Meet the author

Dan Favale

Dan Favale leverages over 12 years of sports journalism expertise in his role as New York staff writer. He provides in-depth analysis across the NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL, tennis, NASCAR, college basketball, and sports betting. Dan co-hosts the popular Hardwood Knocks NBA podc...

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