We May be Underestimating the Disinterest in Idaho Sports Betting

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Apr 9, 2024 08:00 PM
We May be Underestimating the Disinterest in Idaho Sports Betting

The issue of Idaho sports betting isn’t a very divisive one. That’s because The Gem State hasn’t taken an active interest in discussing it, let alone legalizing it. Most have accepted this reality. But what if the timeline for sports betting in Idaho is even worse than we thought?

This sounds pretty wild on its face. How can we underestimate the disinterest and opposition in an industry The Gem State won’t even acknowledge during state legislature meetings? 

Plus, it’s not like state officials are hiding their non-agenda. It was recently made clear yet again that the legalization of sports betting in Idaho remains a non-priority. Intentions and outright opposition don’t get any clearer.

And yet, there is also a widespread belief that Idaho sports betting is inevitable. This isn’t because of something the state has done or their officials have said. The conviction is rooted in trendom. More than 38 states have now legalized some form of sports betting. Everyone, everywhere, is eventually going to follow suit. That includes Idaho. Because it has to. Because one or two states cannot buck a trend that seems like it’ll be adopted by 40 to 45-plus states in the near future.

In some ways, this logic is sound—understandable, perhaps even sensible. But it’s not ironclad. We decided to poke around Idaho’s historical stance on sports betting and gambling in general. And what we found makes us think that sports gambling in The Gem State isn’t just a few years away. It might be an impossibility. There are a couple of primary reasons why. Allow us to explain.

The Opposition of Daily Fantasy Sports in Idaho Speaks Volumes

Daily Fantasy Sports has often registered as a loophole to gambling laws. Many states that don’t have any legal sports betting legislation or that don’t allow online sportsbooks in the United States to operate inside their market permit the use of Daily Fantasy Sports sites. 

To be sure, this allowance isn’t always official. It’s more like Daily Fantasy Sports just aren’t disallowed. Most states don’t consider them games of chance (i.e. gambling). Take the issue of sports betting in Texas. The Lone Star State has so far vehemently opposed the legalization of sports gambling as well as the creation and expansion of casino gaming laws. However, Daily Fantasy Sports sites are allowed in Texas despite their overall anti-gambling stance.

Similar cases like this are scattered throughout the United States. In fact, they were more prevalent when sports betting in the USA was not a commonality. Now that legal sports gambling is a majority practice, the permittance of Daily Fantasy Sports no longer registers as top-of-mind.

That brings us to Idaho’s anti-sports betting stance. They don’t just oppose sports gambling. They have language in their state constitution that makes it illegal to partake in Daily Fantasy Sports. This will seem like a throwaway issue to many. But it’s not. The Gem State had to take an active stance against Daily Fantasy Sports to reach this point. This means they discussed it, deliberated it and decided to red flag it. 

This consideration alone says a great deal about the Idaho sports betting timeline–or lack of it. The issue isn’t just one the state has skirted, ignored, forgotten about, etc. It’s a matter they have traveled extra great lengths to oppose.

Why Haven’t Tribal Casinos Pushed to Legalize Sports Betting?

Another telltale void in the Idaho sports betting discussion: The apparent disinterest from tribal casinos in legalizing it. As Martin Green of the Idaho Statesman previously wrote:

“There is no indication that sports betting will be legalized in Idaho any time soon. The tribes that operate the state’s casinos have not lobbied for sports betting. If they do, we could see retail sportsbooks eventually launched on tribal lands, but that would also take some time to bear fruit.”

For anyone who might now know, this is not a common occurrence. Tribal casinos in states without sports betting often lobby to get retail gambling passed. This is the case when it comes to sports betting in Minnesota. It was—and to some extent remains—the case for sports betting in Florida. (Note: Sports betting is back up and running in The Sunshine State, but only at Seminole Tribe casino locations. Other operators would like to be part of the business themselves.)

Not hearing a peep from Idaho tribal casinos in the five-plus years since the United States Supreme Court overturned the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act is truly bizarre. It speaks to a total disinterest in legal sports betting. 

Which raises the question of: Why? Some will paint this as an issue of warding off online sports betting in Idaho. But that doesn’t hold much water. Many other states have legalized on-site only sports betting to protect tribal casinos against online operators. Idaho’s casinos could do the same. 

Get Comfortable, Because the Idaho Sports Betting Timeline Isn’t Changing Anytime Soon

Gambling enthusiasts and analysts inside and outside The Gem State always like to try ballparking an Idaho sports betting timeline. Our advice: Don’t bother. 

If the state’s casinos aren’t pushing for retail sports betting in Idaho, that’s because it’s a total non-starter among officials. Tribal casinos hold real influence. But they also know how to read the room because of that influence. If they’re not even broaching the subject, it means they’ve already been turned or know that it could cause a rift between them and state legislators.

Would it surprise us if Idaho sports betting gets the green light one day? Not at all. In all likelihood, it’s probably inevitable. But “inevitable” doesn’t equate to “imminent.” 

And to that end, the question here isn’t “How much longer until legal sports betting comes to Idaho?” It’s more like “Will sports betting in Idaho ever be legalized at all?”

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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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