Entering 2023, legislation to legalize sports betting in Idaho continues to elude the Gem State. By this point, it makes them an anomaly. More than half of the United States has already legalized sports betting, and even more states have at least proposed bills that would do so. Idaho has done neither. And as the USA enters Year 5 of the expanding sports betting era, it isn't clear the Idaho state congress has any intention of changing their stance.
The quest for an update on Idaho sports betting is on an annual cycle at this point. People inquire about it ahead of every January. That's when the Idaho state congress convenes for their yearly meetings. These sessions tend to last somewhere between 75 and 90, ultimately ending sometime in March.
Well, it's that time of year again. Idaho is scheduled to re-enter legislative meetings this January, and according to Action Network, the state hasn't committed to putting sports betting on the agenda. This isn't particularly surprising, given how many times Idaho has passed on the chance to discuss sports betting in the past. But it does seem like the topic is starting to gain some semblance of traction behind the scenes.
At the very least, members of Idaho state congress appear to be discussing what a potential sports betting bill could look like. Whether this discourse is productive or even a good harbinger, however, remains to be seen.
Idaho State Congress Still Can't Agree on Sports Betting Proposal
Before Idaho state congress can bring a sports betting bill to the House floor, they actually need to agree on what it looks like. And they're not at that point yet.
Indeed, one party can propose legislature that outlines everything they hope to legalize. But that would be just a formality if they don't have the bi-partisan support to win the necessary number of votes.
This is not to say a sports betting bill can't or won't be proposed under uncertain circumstances. Legislature with an unknown amount of support ends up in the House all of the time. But there's a difference between not knowing the potential outcome and understanding whatever bill you propose will fail. Idaho state congress has so far avoided sports betting legislation altogether because they can't even formulate a plan of action that might earn the requisite amount of bi-partisan support.
As it stands, decision-makers are split on how the state should seek to implement sports betting. Three different scenarios seem to be at play. Let's run through them all, shall we?
Will Idaho Seek On-Site Only Sports Betting?
Many within Idaho want to see the state favor on-site sports betting only. They argue that allowing out-of-state online operators into the equation will only cut into their revenue. Online sportsbooks that don't physically reside in the state will still have to pay their assigned tax rate, but they won't funnel any of their profits back into the local economy.
That's why certain sports betting supporters want wagers to be placed exclusively at casinos. They believe that will preserve foot traffic and prevent tribal entities from having to compete with giant corporate conglomerates while also driving up overall profits.
There is some precedence to this logic. Florida went this route in 2021 when they gave the Seminole tribe exclusive gaming rights. Other places like Nebraska, Delaware and Montana currently offer or plan to offer on-site sports betting but don't allow online gambling.
In particular, the model for sports betting in Nebraska currently being mapped out has been deemed a useful parallel for Idaho. Both states have a population between 1.8 and 2 million people, and neither is home to a professional sports organization. If Nebraska's sports betting rollout is successful, that could convince Idaho to follow suit.
What are the Chances of Idaho State Congress Supporting Online Sports Betting?
Supporters of online sports betting in Idaho, meanwhile, consider it a necessity.
Idaho is home to eight casinos and zero professional sports teams. Certain members of Idaho state congress have expressed concern that the state's reach won't be large enough to maximize the revenue stream. And they might be right.
Most sports bets are placed online nowadays. If Idahoans don't live nearby one of the eight casinos, they will still be tempted to explore alternative means of wagering. And believe us, there are no shortage of options.
Our reviews of the top online sportsbooks alone include a large quantity of reputable sites that allow almost anyone in the United States to set up an account. Idaho will invariably miss out on this type of revenue if they legalize only in-person sports betting.
Does This All End with Idaho Steering Clear of Sports Betting?
Welcome to Option No. 3. It also happens to be the most likely option.
In lieu of a establishing a middle ground on sports betting, Idaho state congress has so far elected to ignore the issue entirely. Nothing coming out of the state now suggests that's on the verge of changing.
One of the sides involved needs to concede for there to be progress. Can open-market supporters embrace in-person betting exclusivity? Or can supporters of on-site-only betting get on board with at least partially opening online betting options? And let's not forget there are people in Idaho who are flat-out against sports betting entirely. Are they willing to change their view?
We don't have a definitive answer to these questions. But since sports betting has yet to make Idaho state congress' 2023 discussion docket, it's reasonable to assume the state is preparing to go another year without addressing the potential legalization of sports betting.
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