Will the Rise of Online Gambling Ever Culminate in Legal Idaho Sports Betting?

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Apr 22, 2024 12:00 AM
Idaho sports betting currently remains a non-starter among primary lawmakers. Here’s one thing that might force them to change their tune.

Believe it or not, a national spotlight is starting to make its way over to the Idaho sports betting scene. Or rather, a focus is being cast upon the absence of one.

To be sure, this increase in scrutiny over sports betting in Idaho is not originating from inside the state itself. Lawmakers in the Gem State have shown very little interest in discussing, let alone legalizing, sports gambling. Their reasons vary. Some remain against it for moral concerns. Others do not think the revenue projections for Idaho sports betting are worth setting up an entire infrastructure. Political and religious affiliations are at play, too. Especially the former. Idaho is predominantly conservative, and northwest states with a monopoly on that ideology have predominantly shown resistance to the legalization of sports wagering.

Instead, this attention over the future of sports gambling in the Gem State is being fueled by the sports betting market in the United States at large. See, at this writing, 38 states have legalized some form of sports gambling. That represents a majority of the USA. But it’s also a number that may reside at a standstill. And it’s this gridlock that has piqued the interest of those tasked with regulating and monitoring the United States sports gambling market.

Rate of Sports Betting Legalization in the United States is Slowing Down

Before getting into the one factor that may have a huge impact on the future of Idaho sports betting, let’s first explore why this is becoming a topic at all. 

As fewer holdouts to sports betting in the United States, the rate of legalization growth has slowed. This is to be expected. There is not an infinite number of states that can legalize sports betting. There are 50. The rate of legalization is meant to slow down and, eventually, entirely stop. But because the list of states without legal sports betting is so compact, there’s only so many places where coverage can be directed. Here’s the full list of states without legal sports betting as of April 2024:

  • Alabama
  • Alaska 
  • California
  • Georgia
  • Hawaii
  • Idaho
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • Oklahoma
  • South Carolina
  • Texas
  • Utah

Plenty of focus is paid to the absence of sports betting in Texas, California and Georgia. Those represent huge markets. Lots of attention is given to sports betting in Alabama, Missouri, Minnesota and Oklahoma as well, largely because they have legislation pending that would legalize gambling. 

The remaining five states do not have active proposals on the table. Two of them, however, generate little interest. We’re talking, of course, about Hawaii and Alaska. They are not members of the contiguous United States, which caps any hold they might have over the market. 

That leaves Idaho, South Carolina and Utah. They are now drawing a disproportionate amount of intrigue relative to their market size all because they don’t have sports betting legislation up for consideration.

Idaho Sports Betting Discussion May Need Jolt from Surrounding

Now, among these three “won’t really consider sports betting” holdouts, Idaho is beginning to stand out even more. Utah is considered a candidate to never legalize sports betting due to its religious roots. South Carolina, meanwhile, is considered a lock to change its tune over the next half-decade. The launch of North Carolina sports betting is bound to serve as an inevitable influence.

Idaho is kind of in its own tier. They don’t have a pro sports market, and Boise State football is their only big-time collegiate draw. You can easily envision the Gem State holding its stance against sports wagering indefinitely.

Many are quick to note, though, that most states surrounding Idaho have legal sports betting. This is true. But they still aren’t feeling the pressure to do the same. And this may have to do with a lack of legal online sports betting among Idaho’s neighbors.

Consider the six closest states to Idaho: Washington, Montana, Oregon, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming. We already know Utah offers zero legal sports betting. Sports betting in Nevada and Wyoming, meanwhile, is legalized online. But although Washington, Montana and Oregon all legalized sports gambling, none of them permit online services. Rather, they each greenlit sports wagering through on-site tribal operations. 

To that end, Idaho may not feel any pressure to revisit the issue until everyone around them has approved online sports gambling.

Could We See Idaho Seriously Consider Sports Gambling in the Near Future?

Our answer to this question has not changed despite renewed framing. Sports betting in Idaho is unlikely to be legalized anytime soon.

Whether a fresh discussion takes place is a slightly different story. And it likely hinges to some extent on whether Montana, Oregon and Washington expand their own gaming laws.

Retail sports betting, while still popular, no longer has the sway it once does. Everything is happening online. For some regions, in fact, well more than 95 percent of their monthly sports betting handle routinely runs through mobile gambling sites. 

Idaho would probably see a similar market split if it ever legalized sports gambling. Online accessibility is a more critical factor in rurally populated areas. But for the Gem State to ever consider that route, we probably need to see online sports betting take hold in Montana, Oregon or Washington—if not in all three. After all, nothing prompts wholesale shifts in political views like the normalization of an entire market. And while online sports betting in the USA is clearly at the point, the same cannot yet be said for Idaho’s northwest corridor.

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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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