Idaho Casinos, Gambling, and Law Regulations: An Overview

The word gaming usually represents activities such as lotteries, casino games, sports betting, and racetracks, all of which have to be regulated by federal and state laws, or, most often, the combination of the two.

In Idaho, gaming, or gambling as people call it, is not that well accepted as is the case with some other states. Still, a few gambling activities are considered legal without any doubt, and these include the State Lottery, tribal gaming, and horse and dog racing.

The text below will guide you through the history of gambling in Idaho and give you vital information on online gambling. Also, you will be able to find out what is considered legal when it comes to gambling, as well as where you can do it in this state.

Without further ado, let’s start with the trip back in time when gambling as we know it wasn’t even a thing.

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Online Gambling in Idaho

The gambling laws are stringent in Idaho, and at this particular moment it doesn’t seem like any improvements have been made since 2017. Notably, there is a problem with online gambling, as it is never mentioned anywhere in the gambling laws.

The most important state laws that deal with Idaho’s gambling industry were written many years ago when online gambling was not even an idea. Therefore, no regulation clearly defined online gambling as allowed or forbidden.

Once the online form of gambling started spreading through the United States, 50 states included it in their offer, and online casinos and poker rooms operated just fine until 2006 and the creation of a federal law known as the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA).

This act prohibited a business from engaging in transactions related to online gambling, which resulted in major sites fleeing the US market except for some states like Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware. These states understood early on that the future lies in technology, and regulated the online gambling industry.

Since the state of Idaho does not have a written law that specifically deals with online gambling, it puts this activity in the grey zone. However, the unregulated online gambling operators that offer their services to people from Idaho emphasize that gamblers are doing it at their own risk.

This would all be great, as no one could bother you referring to your actions if a law doesn’t specify that the activity in question is forbidden. Yet, a problem arose when the specialists went through Idaho’s constitution again, this time more carefully.

What they found as a potential cause of a problem for Idaho residents that gamble online was a sentence in Idaho’s constitution, particularly an article amended in 1992, which says that:

“No activities permitted by subsection (1) shall employ any form of casino gambling including, but not limited to, blackjack, craps, roulette, poker, baccarat, keno, and slot machines, or employ any electronic or electromechanical imitation or simulation of any form of casino gambling.”

Although the term online gaming is not directly mentioned, the part of this sentence that says “any electronic or electromechanical imitation or simulation of any form of casino gambling,” can be understood as such. Be that as it may, playing a game that is banned in Idaho is considered a misdemeanor according to the state penal code.

At the moment, there is no common knowledge about any case in which someone was found guilty of enjoying online gambling activities in the state. For the time being, without state lawmakers making an effort to come up with a law that strictly forbids online gambling, players from Idaho are on their own when it comes to participating in online games provided by many offshore gambling operators.

Gambling Laws in Idaho — The Law Overview

Idaho does not seem to be a gambling-friendly country, considering that only a few forms of gambling are officially allowed in the state. Before going into details, you will be presented with a timeline of essential years regarding the evolution of gambling in Idaho.

  • 1890 — Constitution of the State of Idaho came into being, and it explicitly outlawed any form of lottery.
  • 1930 — Slot machines gained popularity, as there was no definite law prohibiting their use.
  • 1947 — The state passed a statute that directly supported the legalization of slot machines, which helped the gaming industry flourish in Idaho for some time.
  • 1953 — The Idaho Supreme Court proclaimed slot machines unconstitutional, which was clearly stated in the section 18-3804 of the Idaho Code.
  • 1963 — The Idaho State Racing Commission was created when the section 54-2501 authorized pari-mutuel horse racing.
  • 1988 — A bill authorizing the creation of the Idaho Lottery was approved by voters and officially launched in the following year. Another important act that the federal government authorized that same year was the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA). This act allowed federally recognized tribes to form gaming compacts with the states on which their lands were located.
  • 1992 — Some tribes, such as Coeur d’Alene, the Kootenai, and the Nez Perce, initiated the negotiations with Idaho’s state government with an attempt to create special casino facilities where Class III gaming would be held. Under Class III, the state considered: blackjack, craps, roulette, poker, baccarat, keno, and slot machines, or employ any electronic or electromechanical imitation or simulation of any form of casino gambling.

The state wasn’t up for it, so the constitutional amendment was passed that put a ban on Class III games, allowing only the state lottery, pari-mutuel horseracing, and bingo or raffle games held for charitable purposes. Although the tribes repeatedly tried to make a deal with the state when it comes to the legislation of Class III games, nothing has changed.

  • 2002 — The right to offer video gaming machines was put to the vote. It got approved with 57.8 % of the votes, thus making Idaho’s tribal casinos licensed to provide this service, but only if the machines lacked coins, pull levers, and other signifiers of slot machine gameplay.
  • 2011 — The horse racing laws were changed to allow simulcasting of races at other locations apart from the actual race venue. The legal race betting industry of Idaho significantly expanded, with eight such licenses being issued.
  • 2013 — The lawmakers said yes to highly controversial instant racing machines that were designed for automated betting on race-like wagers using equipment and layouts that closely resembled slot machines.
  • 2015 — Bill No. 1011 was approved by the state legislators, repealing the controversial horse racing machine law passed in 2013.
  • 2017 — The Idaho racing industry tried to overturn the 2015 repeal but to no avail.

Where to Gamble in Idaho?

Because Idaho does not allow much when it comes to gambling, players from this country will have to satisfy by very few options available at the moment.

State Lottery

The primary type of gambling in Idaho is the State Lottery, as November 1988 witnessed the approval of the bill which authorized the creation of the Idaho State Lottery that was officially launched the following year.

Lottery tickets for Idaho State Lottery can be bought almost anywhere — gas stations, convenience stores, bowling alleys, and many other places. Here you can also find scratch cards which Idaho residents call “pull tabs.”

What is good about Idaho State Lottery is that 50% of the income is set aside for funding Idaho’s public schools. At the same time, the rest is used for the state’s Permanent Building Fund that supports university and college infrastructure.

If you visit the official website of the Idaho Lottery, you will find the information that it returned a record-setting dividend of $60,000,000 to the people of Idaho in 2019. In the last 30 years, the Idaho Lottery has returned over $906 million to the people of Idaho.

Being a member of the Multi-State Lottery Association, the state lottery includes some of the most popular games such as Powerball and Mega Millions, together with some regional types like Bingo and Weekly Grand.

Tribal Casinos

Tribal casinos are another option if you happen to be in Idaho and have no other thing on your mind. There are seven of them distributed throughout the state, and these seven are Coeur d’Alene Casino, Bannock Peak Casino, Itse Ye Ye Casino, Fort Hall Casino, Sage Hill Casino, Clearwater River Casino & Lodge, and Best Western Plus Kootenai River Inn Casino & Spa.

All these establishments are connected to Indian Tribes, hence the name Tribal Casinos. They do not offer standard table games as regular casinos, but you can find some electronic pull-tab machines, some video games, bingo, and anything that doesn’t belong to the Class III games.

Since they cannot pay out in cash, the machines are made in a way to print you out a receipt that you give to a floor attendant or take to the cashier’s cage in exchange for money.

Pari-Mutuel Horse and Dog Racing

This is one more gambling activity that can be legally practiced in the state of Idaho. However, the only style of betting on horse and dog racing in the state is pari-mutuel, meaning that the use of machines for betting on horses and dogs is forbidden. Therefore, if you want to participate in a bet like this, you need to visit the racecourse itself.

FAQ

Is gambling legal in Idaho?

Only particular types of games are considered legal in Idaho, such as tribal gaming, horse and dog racing, and the State Lottery. Other types of casino games such as poker, slots, blackjack, and others are not allowed in this state.

What is the minimum gambling age in Idaho?

The minimum gambling age in Idaho is 18, except in Clearwater Casino that doesn’t accept customers younger than 21.

Is online gambling allowed in Idaho?

The state of Idaho is in a grey zone when it comes to online gambling, as there is no specific law that bans online gambling. However, there is a part of the state’s constitution that forbids  “any electronic or electromechanical imitation or simulation of any form of casino gambling” that can be perceived as online gaming. Therefore, players from Idaho can play at offshore online casinos at their own risk.

Can you gamble anywhere in Idaho?

The only venue where you can legally gamble in Idaho is any of the tribal casinos or racecourses.

Is participating in unlawful gambling punishable in Idaho?

As a matter of fact, the unlawful gambling in Idaho is considered a misdemeanor and is punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for up to six months, a fine of up to $1,000, or both.