For so long, the wait for sports betting in Idaho has essentially boiled down to futile patience. Ever since the U.S. allowed each individual state to determine the fate of legal gambling, the Gem State has seldom even broached the topic. And when they do, it has been with a casual, off-handed indifference. But could the growing potential for college sports betting revenue change that? Some within the state believe it might.
In some ways, it almost has to be the impetus for Idaho to change. After all, the state cannot rely on the professional sports market to speak volumes on their behalf. While there are plenty of pro sports betting enthusiasts in Idaho, the state itself isn't home to any franchises. That inherently limits the appeal of Idaho sports betting for every imaginable stakeholder: the government, casinos, commercial sportsbooks, even residents. And it's why legal betting in Idaho is still considered a long shot.
Yet, Idaho does have a fairly robust college sports market. Specifically, Boise State University, which is located in Boise, Idaho, boasts widely known and rooted for Division I programs in college football and college basketball. A school of this caliber is bound to draw serious interest on the betting the market.
But surely one university enough isn't worth enough in college sports betting revenue to shift Idaho's policies, right?
Idaho College Sports Betting Revenue Projections are Higher Than You Think
With the 2022 college football season officially underway, preliminary numbers show that interest in betting on college football is approaching an all-time high. Nearly 47 million Americans, in fact, said they planned to place a wager during Week 1, according to the IdahoPress.com.
Idaho, of course, accounts for a rather small portion of that number. Their state population checks in under 2 million people. But the same poll from above revealed nearly 42 percent of Idahoans would be open, if not outright excited, to bet on Boise State football during the 2022 season. That is a massive number relative to the population—particularly for a state in which previous polls showed a majority of residents were indifferent or flat-out against legal sports betting.
Working with this projection, we can estimate how much college sports betting revenue Idaho missed out on during Week 1. At this writing, the average sports bet placed in America is roughly $6 (seriously). In an effort to be conservative and underestimate Idaho's possible college sports betting revenue, let's round that number down to $5. Next, if we take 42 percent of their 1.9 million population, that leaves us with around 798,000 people. Let us again be ultra-conservative and round all the way down to 700,000.
If 700,000 Idahoans place an average of $5 in college football bets, the amount of wagers processed would total approximately $3.5 million. And that's for one week! Extrapolate this number out for the entire season, across roughly 12 games, and we're talking about $42 million!
Mind you, this is just college football we're talking about. It says nothing about how much Idahoans will wager on Boise State basketball. Nor does it take into account their actual interest in professional sports. They may not have an NFL team, for example, but people in Idaho are known to root for and intimately follow the Seattle Seahawks anyway.
New 'Microbets' Stand to Drum Up Idaho's College Sports Betting Revenue Even Further
Optimistic projections for college sports betting revenue alone won't sway Idaho. They have been privy to similar data in years past and still elected to do nothing. This is largely because they don't think their cut of the revenues will be worth the leg work. That $3.5 million-per-week figure isn't pure profit; it's just the total number of bets. Once you factor in how much sportsbooks would pay out to winning wagers, Idaho's cut would be much smaller.
For their part, state officials don't seem interested in collecting an extra couple of million in revenue per year. As Rep. Brent Crane, the Assistant Majority Leader in Idaho’s House of Representatives, recently noted: "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.”
Idaho's potential windfall from college sports betting revenue would likely need to balloon even further if the state is going to get serious about it. And that's where the new wave of "microbetting" comes in. As the Idaho Press explained, microbetting is "the ability to place wagers on outcomes as narrowly targeted as whether the next play will be a run or a pass, how many yards will it gain, or whether the drive results in a punt, a touchdown, a turnover or something else." They also found that it is the "fastest-growing segment of legal sports betting."
Microbets have been popular among digital gaming companies for some time. You will, for instance, find microbetting outcomes at every single site from our reviews of the top online sportsbooks. But these wager types are relatively new for physical sportsbooks at casinos.
Also: This form of betting will be especially appealing in limited markets that don't have many home teams. There are only so many big-picture and single-game outcome bets you can place on Boise State before you run out of options. Microbetting, however, encourages clientele to invest money in multiple ways. And that kind of simultaneous wagering can significantly boost profit margins. To wit: Atlantic City and the state of New Jersey sportsbooks are already reporting massive increases in their weekly action since they introduced microbetting on both the NFL and college football.
The Future of Idaho Sports Betting is Still Murky
Everything we've laid out may indeed pique the attention of Idaho officials at their next legislature session. But even if it does, it'll still be a year or more before the state officially offers it.
And this assumes Idaho ever actually changes their stance. They might not. They've already avoided doing so at every turn.
Then again, the introduction of microbetting at casino sportsbooks, coupled with Idaho's already-growing college sports betting revenue projections, should at least warrant a more serious discussion. And if it doesn't, we're not sure anything will.
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