Nobody is holding their breath for sports betting in Idaho to take effect anytime soon. The state has refused to even broach the topic when given the opportunity. Conventional wisdom now says legal sports betting in Idaho is a long shot before 2024 or 2025. But what if it turns out that timeline is ambitious? The recent findings of a 2022 state lottery study suggest it might be.
Spurred by the major uptick in casinos and legal sports betting, the Howard Center for Investigative Journalism at the University of Maryland conducted an investigation into the USA's state lottery system, which is responsible for overseeing the implementation of online gambling in many places. Granted, this isn't the case in every state. But because nearly every state has one, the lottery system is considered a good barometer for determining the economic impact all forms of betting can have on a given region.
Not surprisingly, the Howard Center's study found that state lottery systems tend transfer wealth from less fortunate communities into wealthier ones. These results essentially confirm what has always been a prevailing sentiment. In doing so, they give states that have yet to legalize online sports betting a reason to continue doing so. And as noted in the Idaho Statesman, the Gem State figures to be among those that remain staunchly against the legalization of any gambling.
What Did the 2022 State Lottery Study Find?
Lottery systems weren't always the standard throughout the United States. On the contrary, they were more anomaly than benchmark. But that's all changed over the years. Driven by the opportunity to secure lucrative tax revenues, 45 of the 50 states currently have lottery systems in place. And according to La Fleur’s 2022 World Lottery Almanac, lottery ticket sales have jumped from $47 billion in 2005 to around $82 billion today.
The profits that states get from these ticket sales are considered useful because they're supposedly funneled to important sectors, such as educational programs. But not only is this not always true, the Howard Center's study determined that the lottery system is disproportionately capitalizing on lower-income areas. Consider the following excerpt from the Idaho Statesman:
"The investigation’s analysis of cellphone location data shows that the people who patronize those stores come from the same kinds of communities...In the popular imagination, the lottery is funded by people who spend a few dollars on a Powerball ticket when the jackpot gets big. This is not reality. More than two-thirds of lottery sales are of instant scratch-off tickets, which range in price from $1 to $50. A sliver of players are responsible for most of that spending. A 1999 report to the National Gambling Impact Study Commission found the top 10 percent of lottery spenders accounted for two-thirds of sales. The most frequent players, the study found, had lower incomes, were high school dropouts and disproportionately Black. High school dropouts spent four times more per year than college graduates. Black people spent, on average, nearly five times as much as white people."
Some will point out that buying lottery tickets isn't like betting on sports or patronizing casinos. But there are many similarities. Casinos, for instance, are overwhelmingly more likely to be built and opened in lower-income neighborhoods—especially in the southern and midwestern part of the United States. And numerous studies have shown those with lower salaries and funds are more likely to gamble larger shares of their incomes compared to people who are more financially sound.
What Does This Mean for Idaho Sports Betting?
Idaho has so far avoided even seriously entertaining legal sports betting on the basis that it could adversely impact lower-income citizens and areas. There are other reasons, as well. Mainly, opponents cite religious regions and the fact Idaho would need to amend their constitution to legalize sports gambling. But the exploitative nature of online betting has played the largest role in deterring the state from taking any action.
This study, as the Idaho Statesman pointed out, has already caught the attention of local officials. It is bound to play a role if and when the topic is ever broached again.
On top of that, there have recently been calls in other states to cap the amount sportsbooks are allowed to spend on advertising, in large part because there has been an exponential increase in the number of people who are contacting gambler's anonymous helplines and chats. States like Idaho, Texas, Alabama and others may wait until there are federal policies in place that more strictly monitor sportsbook spending and allocate more funds to treating gambling addictions.
The 2022 State Lottery Study is Not the End for Lottery
As crass as it sounds, this 2022 state lottery study likely won't prevent Idaho from joining the legal sports betting ranks sometime down the line.
More than 30 states have now made the leap. Idaho won't be able to turn down what is potentially millions of dollars in extra revenue every year. Remember: Idaho residents are already placing bets on sports. They can travel across state lines or sign up for accounts with any one of the sites from our list of the top online sportsbooks.
Let's also not forget that Idaho has a state lottery despite all of their concerns about how it affects needy communities. In a way, that makes their stance on sports betting at least a little hypocritical. Regardless, we still shouldn't expect Idaho to legalize sports betting for another few years unless the U.S. drastically changes how it polices the new product at a federal level.
Take a look at this list of the top online sportsbooks so you can find one that works for all of your sports betting needs: