Why Legal Gambling in Vermont Could be Interesting Case Study for Idaho Sports Betting

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Jan 11, 2024 12:00 AM
Idaho sports betting continues to be a non-starter among state officials. But the recent launch of gambling in Vermont could change that.

Let’s not mince words: Idaho sports betting is not getting legalized in 2024.

To anyone who didn’t understand as much, we apologize for being the bearer of bad news. Most people, though, likely know that sports gambling has not registered as priority among The Gem State’s officials. In fact, experts may be underestimating just how far away Idaho sports betting actually is from any puncher’s chance of legalization. And yes, that’s saying something. Many industry insiders have painted a 10-to-15 year timeline for sports betting in Idaho. Others, meanwhile, have gone as far as predicting that this could be a “never, ever” situation. That’s something many have pondered about sports betting in Utah, for instance.

Yet, while we recognize Idaho sports gambling isn’t coming anytime soon, we don’t see the outlook being that hopeless. The Gem State’s opposition to legal sports betting isn’t as rooted in religious and moral high grounds as it is in select other places. We won’t dare to put a timeline on the legalization of Idaho sports gambling. But we do believe it’ll happen.

All it takes is one push. And to get that push, all it takes is one proposal that sticks. To this point, on the rare occasion sports betting is discussed among Idaho officials, it never gained any traction. But that’s been the case in other states. And many of those regions have changed their tune.

The latest state to make the transition is Vermont. They officially launched legal sports betting after an extended delay and plenty of opposition. In the end, though, sports betting eventually passed. And it debuts with a rather unique structure. It’s a model many other states could be watching and potentially implement—Idaho included.

Why is Idaho Sports Betting Such a Dormant Issue? 

Before understanding how sports betting in Vermont could impact the future of sports gambling in Idaho, we first need to grapple with why The Gem State has avoided the subject like the plague for so long. 

This dormancy typically suggests a religious or unassailable political opposition. Make no mistake, there is plenty of that to combat inside the Idaho House of Representatives and Senate. But the distaste for sports seems largely logistical. 

Policymakers don’t necessarily think the legalization process is worth the trouble. On some level, they might have a point. The Idaho sports market isn’t home to any professional teams. The Boise State football team is a huge draw. But aside from minor league baseball and the occasional college basketball interest, this is about it.

Opponents of bringing sports betting to Idaho will point out the prospective tax revenue isn’t worth the resources it would take to set up. Others will also note that the payoff isn’t worth the uptick in problem and underage gambling legal sports betting can bring. Both are fair points. And truth be told, there’s no arguing against the latter. Studies have shown legal sports betting will lead to initial, if not sustainable, increases in gambling addiction.

The logistical issues are a different story, though. It might be a headache for Idaho to set up sports betting if they insist on a certain number of retail locations. Those brick-and-mortar locations demand vast amounts of compliance protocols and mandate a lot of regulation once they’re open. 

But what if Idaho legalized sports betting in a way that doesn’t require as much legwork before and after it goes live?

Should Idaho Consider the Legalization of Only Online Sports Wagering?

This is where Vermont comes into play. As of January 1, they offer legal online sports betting without any retail locations. They came to this decision after a series of proposals, and the process took years to make it through all the necessary hoops. 

It bears mentioning that Vermont isn’t the only state to allow online sportsbooks in the United States to enter the market while eschewing retail locations. Sports betting in Tennessee, for instance, follows a similar model. 

However, Vermont’s sports betting market is much more comparable to the potential Idaho sports betting market. Neither state houses any professional sports franchises, and Vermont’s population is roughly one-third of that in Idaho

Much like Idaho, many Vermont officials didn’t think the legalization of sports gambling would be worth the logistical resources. But regulating the online market, while still demanding, is more straightforward. It doesn’t involve any on-site work yet it guarantees a larger client base.

Remember: Online sports betting in the United States has reached an all-time high popularity. Customers don’t have to worry about proximity to casinos, race tracks or retail kiosks. They can simply bet from anywhere in the state using their mobile devices. That’s why an estimated 80-plus percent of all bets placed in the United States in 2023 were processed using an online sportsbook.

The Roadmap to Idaho Sports Betting Exists, But It Will Take Some Time

Even if the launch of Vermont online sports betting isn’t top-of-mind for Idaho now, the state will eventually take notice over time. The similarities between the two markets are too stark to ignore.

What’s more, the population differentials will naturally pique the attention of policymakers. If a state with one-third the population of Idaho is able to generate substantial tax revenue, then surely The Gem State can find a place for a similar practice.

This is not to imply a change of heart waits just around the corner. It will take a while for Idaho to gauge the effectiveness of sports betting in Vermont and perhaps elsewhere. At the bare minimum, an entire year must pass before other states start reading into whatever results Vermot spits. 

Still, the implementation of online-only models represent a form of hope for Idaho sports betting down the line. These setups are, at the very least, proof of alternative legalization forms. By extension, that makes them conversation starters for even the most devoutly opposed states. And as far as Idaho sports betting news goes, any development that might, possibly, potentially start any kind of discussion is a positive development.

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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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