The wait for sports betting in Idaho seems never-ending. Entering the 2023 calendar year, this wasn't supposed to change. But as the rest of the United States increasingly warms up to legal gambling, the Gem State suddenly sticks out like a sore thumb. And with 2023 legislative sessions officially underway, a recent development elsewhere has prompted a question: Could officials finally face pressure to address Idaho legal sports betting in 2023?
Most will answer this inquiry with a reflexive and resounding "No." We don't blame them. Ever since the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act was overturned back in 2018, more than half of the United States has legalized some sort of sports betting. Not only has Idaho failed to join that fray, but they have seldom even talked about it. In fact, no Idaho legal sports betting bill has ever been proposed in a formal capacity.
Hence the skepticism. Why would things suddenly change now? Especially when we know that the Idaho state congress had no plans to discuss sports betting during this this year's round of legislature meetings, the next batch of which will begin on January 26? We can understand why many won't even entertain the notion of the Gem State shifting its policies or sentiments toward gambling and gaming laws.
Still, seismic change begets seismic change. And by this, we mean that other states could carry influence over what Idaho does next. That's doubly true when one of them was once considered a long shot to join the legal sports betting trend in the United States.
North Dakota Sports Betting Bill May Drive Idaho to Revisit Gambling Policies
For those who haven't already picked up on it, we are referencing the recent sports betting news coming out of Idaho. According to The Bismarck Tribune, the North Dakota House of Representatives has introduced and already approved a piece of legislation that would green light sports betting throughout the entire state. Here are the full details from the report:
The North Dakota House on Thursday approved legislation that would legalize sports betting in the state, sending the proposal to the state Senate. If the Senate approves the measure, it would be placed on the November 2024 ballot for residents to decide whether to change the state constitution to allow sports betting. Currently, sports betting is allowed only at tribal casinos in the state. Republican Rep. Greg Stemen, of Fargo, argued legalizing sports betting would bring in millions of dollars in revenue to the state, and provide oversight and regulation, The Bismarck Tribune reported.
Believe it or not, this is a big deal for Idaho. Indeed, North Dakota has previously been more open to expanding their gaming laws than the Gem State. But if they end up branching out the legalization of sports betting, it will mark yet another neighboring state that has made the decision.
This inherently puts pressure on Idaho to at least give a second thought to the subject. They are currently enveloped by places in the United States with legal sports betting. Oregon, Washington, Montana, Wyoming, Nevada, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico have already given their approval. The only state that touches Idaho without legal sports betting is Utah. Meanwhile, other states right around Idaho in the midwest have given their stamp of approval, as well. Nebraska is on the verge of rolling out legal sports betting, and both Kansas and South Dakota are already in the mix. Now, it appears North Dakota is about to join them.
Studies are Being Conducted for Idaho Sports Betting
With so many neighbors aboard the sports betting bandwagon, might Idaho finally change their tune? That much remains unclear. Idaho still has no plans to discuss legal sports betting during this year's legislative meetings.
However, more resources are being poured into researching the potential economical impact of sports betting on the state. According to the Idaho Statesman, an estimated $300 million per year is already being wagered by residents outside the state. This number tries taking into account bets being placed in other states as well as with some of the top reviewed online sportsbooks that allow Idahoans to sign up and service accounts.
While this $300 million figure is far from exact, it's a hefty chunk of change. And it means that Idaho is leaving millions of dollars in tax revenue on the table each year. That, by extension, invalidates some of the counter-arguments against sports betting in Idaho.
Critics have claimed Idaho doesn't have the market to dredge up interest, because they aren't home to any professional sports teams. But the rise of online wagering has made betting accessible for everyone. That's why many other markets without pro sports franchises long ago allowed online gambling to take place.
More studies still need to be done on the Idaho market. And no matter what they find, there will always be the opponents who believe that legalized sports betting leads to increases in gambling addiction. That sentiment still prevails throughout the Idaho state congress, and it's why they are unlikely to legalize sports betting during this term. But with so many neighbors making the plunge, and with more researching being done on the Idaho sports betting market, it's at least starting to feel like legal sports betting will have a puncher's chance of breaking through somewhere down the line.
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