Real Money Online Gambling in Idaho
Idaho didn’t start out as a state that was all that reluctant toward real money gambling, and for many years gambling was rife in the state, and they even legalized slot machines for a time. 1953 was the last time that anyone played slots legally on non-tribal land, and aside from the state lottery, betting on horses, and charitable gambling, the state of Idaho themselves don’t permit very much.
Idaho’s Indian tribes don’t mind casino gambling so much, and have exercised their legal rights under the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act to build 7 casinos, although they are limited to offering slots and bingo at this time. Those Iowans who have an appetite to bet on more things or would like to do so more conveniently than travelling to one of the state’s racetracks or tribal casinos so have some very good options though, as we will explain.
History of Gambling in Idaho
Idaho began its history as a state by including in the new state’s constitution a provision that “the state shall not authorize any lottery or gift enterprise.” This created some legal confusion in Idaho’s early years, with people focusing on the meaning of what is prohibited, although there was more wrong with the passage than just this.
The claim that this banned gambling in general comes down to how we are to interpret the meaning of lottery, and we would not normally use the term to describe games of chance in general, only those where players purchase a lot, a chance to win a bigger prize.
This actually doesn’t even prevent people from coming up with their own lotteries though, as it merely informs us that the state shall not authorize lotteries, in other words, take an active role in running or sanctioning one. This does not speak at all to “unauthorized” lotteries, or even require they be authorized, and therefore doesn’t tell us anything other than a constitutional amendment would be needed if and when the state intends to authorize a lottery or gift enterprise.
There is an important distinction here that many get confused about, thinking that the state must first authorize something before you are allowed to do it, but the act must first be prohibited by law before authorization can derive any meaning.
This is a perfect example of a lack of authorization without such meaning, and while 1890 was a long time ago, this still often comes up in legal discussion, where we see mistaken beliefs about governments needing to approve gambling prior to being allowed to do it, which can only be needed when they revoke the ability to do it first and then write authorizations as exceptions.
Idaho had plenty of real money gambling in its early days, and whether or not slot machines came under this constitutional amendment became seen as a “grey area,” in spite of no actual greyness but an illusion of it. Sometimes authorizations so serve a practical purpose in spite of no existing prohibitions, to provide clarity as well as a regulatory framework, like we see with states authorizing pari-mutuel wagering when there may not have been any law against these things.
Idaho passed a law in 1947 authorizing the use of slot machines, and this did serve to cause a boom in slot parlors in the state. While people don’t need legal permission in the absence of legal restraint, giving it to them does tend to see it promoted more, especially since this generally places it under the umbrella of state oversight rather than being left unregulated.
Then, in 1953, the Idaho Supreme Court struck down the authorization for real money slot machines, deeming it unconstitutional. It would appear that this court wasn’t fond of slots since they managed to stretch the meaning of lottery or gift enterprise to include these machines, in addition to the grievous error of presuming that authorization is required for a practice to be legal.
Slots later became criminalized after Idaho crafted laws that successfully prohibited all gambling unless authorized, including the possession and operation of slots, which remains the case today. Idaho seemed more interested in authorizing horse race betting, and in 1957, a bill was passed by the legislature only to be vetoed by the governor. 6 years later, they tried again, and the governor vetoed it again, but this time they had enough votes to override the veto.
The state’s pari-mutuel market continues to this day, and there are currently 7 horse racing tracks in the state. Idaho finally got the lottery it had constitutionally sworn not to authorize, in 1988, where their people voted to amend the state constitution to finally permit it.
1992 saw the state engage in negotiations with its Indian tribes who were seeking to build casinos, and in the aftermath, Idaho now has 7 tribal casinos who are only able to offer electronic gaming and bingo. Idaho successfully kept table games out of these casinos, and has not caved in to the pressure to allow anyone, even the Indians, to offer table games.
1992 was also the year that Idaho authorized charitable gambling, and also the last time Idaho authorized any new form of gambling. This is a pretty dry state as far as gambling goes, and there is considerable room for improvement once minds become open enough in Idaho.
Idaho Gambling Laws
Idaho’s gambling laws clearly demonstrate that no matter how carefully a law may be constructed, it is still subject to misinterpretation by the courts, and even gross misinterpretation in some cases.
Idaho does a stellar job in banning all forms of what we normally consider to be gambling, which includes playing real money poker, betting real money on casino games, and betting on sporting contests. Particular forms of gambling can be included by way of description, by specific mention, or both, and Idaho clearly accomplishes both.
There should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that all three of these forms of gambling are included in the state’s definition of illegal gambling unless otherwise permitted by law. It bans all wagering contingent upon chance or lot, and specifically mentions a number of popular casino games, including blackjack, craps, roulette, baccarat, and poker, but this also includes any wager that is based in any way upon chance.
It also bans bets based upon the outcome of any event, and just in case people were wondering whether sports betting is betting on the outcome of an event, betting on sporting events get specifically mentioned as well.
When a law specifically bans casino games, real money poker, and sports betting, that should make it pretty clear that they are included. Bona fide contests of skill where only the participants get rewarded are excluded, but in order to do this, you have to be part of the contest and no other interests beyond the participants can be involved in the betting.
Real money casino games are far from bona fide contests of skill, and you don’t participate in sporting contests that you bet on, so neither of these would qualify in any way for an exception. What about poker though? If the game is being run commercially, then someone else other than the players benefit so this would disqualify it. What about a home game of poker though where only the players benefit?
The bona fide part of a bona fide contest of skill means that only skill is involved, without an element of chance in other words. Poker does involve an element of chance, and in fact is specifically mentioned in the law as a game dependent to some degree upon chance, right alongside blackjack, craps, and roulette, and this in itself precludes any discussion of this being anything else but a game that does involve chance and therefore not bona fide contests of skill.
You could bet on yourself in an arm-wrestling contest with your friends, but you couldn’t do the same with a game with any element of chance, and poker is clearly one of those games. It might seem bizarre that an Idaho judge saw the commercial operation of a poker game as being a bona fide game of skill and outside the scope of this law, but that’s exactly what happened.
It is said that, with a lot of court decisions, the bias of the court ends up deciding the matter. With gambling cases, sometimes it becomes pretty clear that these biases interfered with applying the law, and the court disregarding poker being specifically mentioned as gambling in the definition and also ignoring the fact that even if poker were not specifically prohibited and could somehow be understood to be a bona fide contest of skill, its commercialization would exclude it from this exemption.
Judges often are accused of reasoning backward from their decisions, to decide first and try to justify it in the law, but their findings are generally at least arguable and not usually so blatantly mistaken. The upshot of this though is that not only did players not become arrested in this game, even the operator wasn’t found guilty, which at least suggests that this state may be at least more open to poker than the law may suggest.
Land-Based Gambling in Idaho
Idaho has allowed betting on horses for over half a century now, and while pari-mutuel tracks in a lot of states have suffered from all the new gambling competition that has come lately, the competition for Idaho’s tracks has been more modest, modest enough to allow them to stay in business without the need to add slots to their offerings.
Idaho has 7 tracks that you can bet on horses at currently, and the industry has managed to keep it together well enough to still be an active force in the Idaho gambling market. The trend is to see a state’s number of tracks reduce over the years, perhaps down to just one in some states or even none in some cases, but horse racing is alive and well in Idaho.
The other state permitted form of gambling, the Idaho Lottery, sold its first ticket back in 1989 and has been going strong ever since. Idaho’s gambling market is at least officially underserved, and when this is the case, the sheer reach of state lotteries places them in a commanding position, where the ease of playing versus having to travel to a racetrack or Indian casino does count for quite a bit.
Aside from charitable gambling, the only other legal way to gamble in Idaho is to travel to one of the state’s Class II tribal casinos. This means that they can only offer slots and bingo. Given that Idaho once explicitly permitted slots, but never allowed table games, and have since seen their view toward casino gambling in general turn more conservative, not allowing either anymore outside these tribal casinos where their arm was twisted by federal law to have to suffer, it is not surprising at all that this is one of the states where the Indians failed to get the Class III license that so many other states offer their tribes.
The Coeur D’Alene Casino Resort Hotel is the centerpiece of the state’s tribal casino landscape, strategically located within a half hour drive of both Coeur D’Alene, ID, and Spokane, WA. It features 1,600 video gaming machines, high-stakes bingo, and simulcast racing, along with a 302 room hotel with all the amenities, including the largest spa in the Northwest.
On the other end of the scale, there is the Bannock Peak Truck Stop and Casino, which is more truck stop than casino, although there is a room with 60 slots in it that patrons can enjoy playing while there.
The Clearwater River Casino Hotel falls in between, with a 50 room hotel with 400 slots as well as bingo. The It’se Ye-Ye Casino has 110 gaming machines to go along with their bingo hall. The Kootenai River Inn Casino and Spa spreads 500 slot machines across 3 gaming rooms, with a fourth being reserved for bingo.
The Sage Hill Travel Center and Casino has 100 slot machines on their little casino that adjoins their travel center, with the Shoshone Bannock Casino Hotel rounding out the list of Idaho tribal casinos with 900 slot machines including video roulette and craps, the closest you will get to casino table games in the state.
With less than 4,000 slot machines in the entire state, and no table games, this is a far cry from neighboring Nevada, or even adjoining states like Washington and California who both have far more extensive tribal casino gambling than Idaho has. People do travel outside the state though to gamble and with Las Vegas pretty close, they don’t have to go far to get the best casino gambling the world has to offer.
Idaho Online Casinos & Slots Gambling
To get a sense of how Idaho feels about allowing real money online gambling, we only need to look at the failed efforts of those who wish to allow tickets for the Idaho lottery to be purchased online, which never even stood a chance of getting approved in this state.
If a state does not want to have its own lottery take gambling online, and strongly opposes it in fact, and is opposed to gambling in general beyond the lottery and betting on horses, this is not a state where the prospects of online gambling or any expansion of the gambling market look very good at the present time.
Idaho is one of several states where some commentators will point out that there are no specific mention of prohibiting online gambling, so therefore it somehow might be legal, or at least in a grey area of sorts. Given that gambling in general in all forms not authorized by law is illegal, this would be like wondering whether it is legal to gamble at the dining room table versus the kitchen table when gambling at all is against the law.
Sometimes, a state may write their anti-gambling laws rather carelessly, which we are always quick to point out, but this is not the case in Idaho’s gambling laws. The act in question is risking something of value where the outcome becomes determined by the wager being dependent upon chance to some degree or on the outcome of an event, which applies equally whether the bet was made online or not.
Idaho’s gambling laws score a 10 out of 10 in clearly banning all gambling by way of any channel, and the channel used is irrelevant, whether by way of physical chips, the internet, the telephone, shouting out the window at a neighbor, or any other means of communicating the wager, and also applies to anything one would wish to wager money on.
Make no mistake, if you gamble online while residing in the state of Idaho, you are breaking state law, as surely as you would be if you did the same in neighboring Washington, who do have explicit prohibitions against online gambling. Washington actually didn’t need this, as their existing laws already banned online gambling, but mentioning it by name does serve to clear up any confusion anyone may have.
It’s not that anti-online gambling laws don’t have any practical force, as there are many who may have not considered how the state of Idaho could ever enforce these laws online, and this is the reason why states regulating online gambling grows the market for this, as there are always quite a few people that do not understand that the state’s preference for anything that you do online is beyond their ability to regulate, and these laws rely on the honor system or confusion to derive their force.
Idaho has no plans on regulating online gambling, but this really doesn’t matter because there are so many other options out there that do not depend on anyone getting permission from the state to enjoy.
Future of Gambling in Idaho
Idaho remains firmly opposed to allowing any more gambling in their state, and wouldn’t have any slots if not for the leverage that federal law has provided to their tribes which could not just be voted down.
The next logical step in Idaho’s development would be to allow the state’s pari-mutuel tracks to host slot gaming as well, but Idaho is standing their ground with this and all other ideas of expanding access to gambling in the state and no change is in the forecast at this time.
Idaho has also not been one of the states that has shown any interest in jumping on the sports betting bandwagon that has spread throughout the country, either by land or by online. However, this doesn’t mean that this isn’t wide open now, or at least wide open to those whose eyes are open to it.
As it turns out, what we do online isn’t a matter of public record, and even if the state of Idaho wanted to spy on our online activities, and even if they did get a court order to do so, which isn’t about to happen since you would need significant evidence to obtain this and can’t just do it on a fishing expedition, this still wouldn’t prove that you are playing for real money, and you’d need access to the servers in the other country to determine this.
This is well beyond what is possible, and even the most totalitarian governments in the world do not have the means to do this. The reason why no one has ever been charged with online gambling in Idaho or in the United States for that matter isn’t because there isn’t a will to enforce this, although that’s true, it’s mostly because there’s no way to catch you doing it.
With this in mind, it’s not hard to see why online gambling in Idaho is already fully open, to those who feel that it is not the place of the Idaho government to tell them how they wish to spend their entertainment dollars, and recognize that they actually cannot in practice anyway.
They then become in a position to decide this matter themselves, and many Idahoans have done just that over the years, and continue to do so. There’s a lot out there waiting for you if you want to play, and all you need is the desire to do it.
If you are up for it, we can show you the best real money online sports betting, real money casino, and real money poker that the internet has to offer, where you can bet all you want on these games and more, whatever your heart desires to bet on. Stamp your own ticket and grab a seat.
Idaho Online Slots & Casinos FAQs
How did Idaho regulate gambling in its early days of statehood?
Idaho became a state in 1890, and among the provisions of the new state constitution was the restriction against the state authorizing “any lottery or gift enterprise.” Even though the only thing that this really prohibited was the creation of a state lottery, and did not speak to the legality of gambling in general or even make private lotteries illegal, this did result in substantial confusion in Idaho surrounding the legality of gambling.
How could Idaho become so confused over this?
The concept of state authorization is a pretty clear one, or at least should be if we understand its meaning. Certain activities can be authorized by governments, and although this is s sufficient condition for legality, it isn’t a necessary one, and no activity requires authorization to become legal unless it is otherwise made illegal first. This was the part Idaho missed, the requirement that an act be illegal prior to needing authorization.
How did legal gambling in Idaho come to an end?
After 57 years of uncertainty surrounding the legality of gambling in general in Idaho, the state government sought to settle the matter by legalizing slot machines in 1947. There had not been any change to the state constitution though and this law stood alongside the provision that the state was not to authorize lotteries. Somehow, the state supreme court interpreted lotteries as to include slots, and struck down the law legalizing them.
What does Idaho law currently say about gambling?
Idaho ended up passing laws that criminalized all forms of gambling, where for a time there was no legal gambling options at all in the state. This time around, there was no room for confusion, as Idaho law clearly and successfully bans all forms of gambling unless otherwise authorized. This is where the concept of authorization comes in, when failing to authorize leaves acts banned otherwise.
What gambling has Idaho authorized since?
The first form of gambling to be authorized in Idaho was pari-mutuel wagering, betting on live horse racing, which was passed in 1963. This remained the only form of legal gambling in the state until 1988 when Idaho finally set aside its vow to not authorize lotteries by way of a state referendum. Charitable gambling became authorized in 1992, which was also the year Idaho reached an agreement with its Indian tribes to not stand in the way of the tribes building casinos.
Does Idaho have commercial casinos or racinos?
While Idaho tolerated casino gambling for its first 63 years of statehood, even passing a law specifically legalizing them at one point, the tide ended up turning against casino gambling. Once all gambling was made illegal, betting on horses became quickly legalized, although no serious effort to legalize casino gambling has since surfaced. All casino gambling apart from what goes on in tribal lands remains illegal in Idaho.
Is social gambling legal in Idaho?
Idaho does allow for participants engaged in bona fide contests of skill to wager on themselves. While the use of bona fide here is generally understood to mean contests where the outcome depends purely on skill, where skill always determines the outcome, this is not the case when it comes to social gambling, where the outcome is dependent in part upon luck. Poker is specifically mentioned among forms illegal, with no exceptions for home games.
What are the chances of getting charged for gambling at home games?
In spite of social gambling being against the law in Idaho, there is no will to seek to prosecute or limit it. Whether state laws seek to prosecute gambling operators or gamblers themselves, the main and usually sole intention is to use this legal force to allow the state to decide what public gambling will be allowed. Gambling in private, at home games, isn’t something states generally worry about, and this is the case in the state of Idaho as well.
Is it legal to gamble online for real money in Idaho?
Idaho law successfully prohibits all forms of gambling unless authorized by state law, and specifically mentions the forms that people gamble on, both at land-based casinos and real money online ones. Idaho law does not permit any real money online gambling whatsoever, even with their state lottery, and in the absence of this, all real money online gambling in Idaho would be against state law.
Is there a risk of arrest for gambling online in Idaho?
Even though it may be clearly against Idaho law to engage in real money online gambling, laws require the means to be enforced to derive any real power. Online gambling in Idaho or anywhere ends up being a moot point because there’s no way to enforce these laws. Players are left free to choose whether they engage in online gambling or not, and among those who do choose it, we can point you to the best places to play at for Idahoans.