Hello, and welcome to Idaho! Gambling is in the news often these days, and residents of the Gem State are understandably curious about when more of it — particularly online gambling in Idaho — might be headed to their neck of the woods.
In truth, Idaho is not a terrific destination for gambling. Although there are seven tribal casino locations in Idaho, the extent of their compacts with the state is to allow the placement of “video gaming machines.” These machines are mostly identical to slot machines. Elsewhere, Idaho residents and visitors can make pari-mutuel bets on races in the state or play the Idaho Lottery.
Legal Idaho online casinos do not exist, but we will talk about some of the sweepstakes sites that you can visit for some casino-type action. Overall, it’s pretty tough sledding for gamblers in Idaho, so we won’t have a ton of good news to offer. However, we pledge right now that we will not make any references to potatoes aside from the one in this sentence. Read on for all the latest, such as it is, with gambling and Idaho.
Play online slots and video poker in Idaho
Is online gambling legal in Idaho?
No. Online gambling is not legal in Idaho in any kind of meaningful way. There are no legal online casinos, sportsbooks, or poker rooms available for Idaho inhabitants to use. Idaho gambling law is quite broadly written, to the point that the law has to clarify that business transactions are not considered gambling under the law, even though they might qualify as “risking any money, credit, deposit or other thing of value for gain contingent in whole or in part upon lot, chance,” the legal definition of gambling in the Gem State.
In addition, Idaho is one of only a few states to prohibit daily fantasy sports (DFS) play unequivocally. The state attorney general entered into an agreement that saw the two main providers of DFS contests, DraftKings and FanDuel, withdraw from accepting Idaho players in May 2016. At present, there has been no move to reconsider the AG’s determination that DFS constitutes gambling under Idaho state law.
There are only two notable exceptions to Idaho’s blanket ban on betting through your mobile device or computer. The first of these is online horse betting (pari-mutuel). As a continuation of the live betting at the state’s racetracks, Idahoans are able to access and play on the top sites for simulcast wagering around the country. If you live in Idaho and are interested, we recommend you check out TVG. TVG is one of the top online horse betting sites in the US, and you are unlikely to run out of options for betting if you create an account there.
The other option for Idaho online gambling is sweepstakes casino sites. Sweepstakes sites use a specific and unique business model to offer casino game opportunities for real money prizes. These sites are completely legal because of how they do business. Sweepstakes are governed by three basic rules, regardless of how they are run:
- It must be free to enter.
- The prizes advertised must be awarded.
- It must not be possible to buy yourself a better chance of winning.
So, sweepstakes casino sites offer a wide selection of slots, table games, and poker for you to play.
Are online casinos legal in Idaho?
No, online casinos are not legal in Idaho at this time. Gambling is broadly illegal, and, frankly, there’s no distinction drawn between online or retail gambling whatsoever.
However, as we mentioned, you can play on one of several sweepstakes casinos around the internet. Top sweepstakes casinos include Chumba Casino, Luckyland Slots, and Funzpoints. Chumba and Luckyland have Gold Coins for play money and Sweeps Coins for real, while Funzpoints have regular Funzpoints and Premium Funzpoints.
Can you play slots online in Idaho?
No. As is the case with other types of online gambling in Idaho, online slots are strictly forbidden by state law. As mentioned, you can take advantage of your sweepstakes site options if you have a jones for online slot games. Many of these sites have fully realized slot games that you’d never guess were anything besides a typical slot title. The only difference is that the branding will be different.
Can you play online poker in Idaho?
No. All poker, outside of the virtual poker at Idaho’s tribal casinos or home games, is illegal in Idaho. So, online poker is almost a double whammy, since both poker and online gambling are prohibited in the state.
Global Poker is the best option that we have found for great poker action online, and because Global is a sweepstakes site, it fits under the law in most states. Like its sister sites, you can play with either Gold Coins (fun money) or Sweeps Coins (redeemable for cash prizes).
Will Idaho regulate online gambling in the future?
It’s rather unlikely. Idaho remains quite hostile to the idea of gambling in general, let alone online gambling. Obviously, with the spread of sports betting across the country in the last few years, we live in a different world than ever before. There have been several states, such as Tennessee and Virginia, whose entrance into the gambling arena has been rather shocking in light of these states’ historical antipathy toward wagering. So, we cannot say unequivocally that Idaho will never regulate online gambling, but we’re pretty confident that it won’t happen anytime soon.
To that end, there is no real push at present or in recent sessions of the Idaho Legislature in that direction. The lone bill relating to gambling that has made it through the legislature and become law in the current session pertains to carving out some extra tax dollars from pari-mutuel betting to administrate racing in the state more effectively. Needless to say, that’s hardly a step toward any kind of major expansion. At this point, Idahoans are going to have to travel out of state if they want to participate in online gambling activities.
Offshore online casinos vs. legal online gambling sites
Let’s start with the truth. Sites that you find that accept players from Idaho are based offshore. As such they come with a few risks. To begin, it is, in fact, illegal under Idaho law. Other concerns stem from the fact that these sites are headquartered and operated from outside the United States. As such, they are not compelled to operate within the laws, guidelines, or business practices required in the US. There’s no guarantee your personal information is safe, your banking details are secure, and your account is in trustworthy hands.
You will be surrendering your personal and banking information when you gamble online. There’s no way to guarantee that their network security is sound or that there are safeguards on your information in case of a breach. There is no way to guarantee there is a mechanism for refunding and returning anything stolen to you.
Idaho is a frustrating place to be a gambler. There’s no doubt about that. But it’s simply not worth it to try and ignore or circumvent the law to scratch your itch. Jump in a car or a plane and head somewhere stateside that has options. The gas money or plane ticket are certainly cheaper than the alternative.
Who regulates gambling in Idaho?
In general, the Idaho Lottery is the gaming regulator in the state. Obviously, since the lottery is one of the few ways to gamble legally in Idaho and the most widespread, there is no more prevalent gaming commission in the state. Lottery officials are also responsible for the licensing and regulation of charitable gaming, like bingo and raffles, in Idaho.
The other gaming regulator in Idaho is the Idaho Racing Commission. The IRC oversees the six horse tracks in the state, along with the online horse betting (advanced deposit wagering) in the state. Between these two agencies is, more or less, regulation for every type of legal gambling inside state lines.
In terms of which regulator would likely oversee an expansion into online gambling, it’s a bit of a guess. In other states without standard gaming commissions, the state lottery commission is often tasked as the default gaming regulator for any casinos, sportsbooks, or cardrooms in the state.
Similarly, any online representations of those types of outlets would be overseen by the lottery. So, if we had to pick one over the other, we suspect that the Idaho Lottery would end up as the regulator for expanded gambling in the future.
However, since there is such a paucity of gambling options in Idaho, anyway, a third option might make the most sense. It is also possible that a gambling expansion would include language to create a new Idaho Gaming Commission. Bear in mind, though, these are all guesses, and until Idaho decides to move in the direction of allowing more gambling, it’s all pretty moot, anyway.
What is the legal gambling age in Idaho?
18. Since Idaho’s limited forays into gambling are confined to lottery, horse betting, and charitable gaming, Idaho residents and visitors as young as high school seniors can take part. For these types of gambling, an 18-year-old age limit is quite common throughout most states. Even the tribal casinos in the state require patrons only to be 18 or older.
Remember, tribal casinos are not the same as true commercial casinos, for the most part. Although they may offer similar games, they usually have different value systems and standards in mind.
So, while Idaho may allow 18-year-olds to go to the tribal locations, it is hard to believe that new locations or expansions in the state — particularly commercial ones — would allow anyone under the age of 21.
Types of legal gambling in Idaho
Idaho’s gambling law is quite far down the scale in terms of restrictiveness. Idaho is not in the category of Utah or Hawaii, but its options are rather limited as these things go. In fact, there are only a few types of gambling that you can find in Idaho at this time. They are:
- Video gaming machines (slot machines)
- Virtual table games
- Horse racing
- Bingo and raffles
- Home poker
Sports betting, the current fad of the US gambling scene, has not made its way into Idaho yet. There are no immediate plans to open legal sportsbooks in Idaho and no bills to legalize are currently on file. There are, obviously, no proposals for online casinos or poker in Idaho, either.
All in all, Idaho is not the place to be if you want to gamble. Even DFS has been banned explicitly.
Are there casinos in Idaho?
Yes. There are seven casinos in Idaho. All seven are owned by four federally recognized Native American tribes in the Gem State. The four casino-owning tribes in Idaho are:
- Coeur d’Alene Tribe
- Kootenai Tribe of Idaho
- Nez Perce Tribe of Idaho
- Shoshone-Bannock Tribe of the Fort Hall Reservation of Idaho
|Bannock Peak Casino||1103 E County Rd, Pocatello, ID 83204||208-235-1308||Shoshone-Bannock Tribe of the Fort Hall Reservation of Idaho|
|Clearwater River Casino & Lodge||17500 Nez Perce Road, Lewiston, ID 83501||208-746-0723||Nez Perce Tribe of Idaho|
|Coeur d'Alene Casino Resort Hotel||37914 South Nukwalqw, Worley, Idaho 83876||800-523-2464||Coeur d’Alene Tribe|
|It'se Ye-Ye Casino||419 Third Street, Kamiah, Idaho 83536||208-935-7955||Nez Perce Tribe of Idaho|
|Kootenai Casino and Spa||7169 Plaza Street, Bonners Ferry, ID 83805||888-875-8259||Kootenai Tribe of Idaho|
|Sage Hill Travel Center & Casino||843 North, US-91, Blackfoot, ID 83221||208-785-0194||Shoshone-Bannock Tribe of the Fort Hall Reservation of Idaho|
|Shoshone-Bannock Casino||777 Bannock Trail, Fort Hall, ID 83203||208-238-4800||Shoshone-Bannock Tribe of the Fort Hall Reservation of Idaho|
Types of games at Idaho casinos
Unfortunately, calling these venues casinos is a bit problematic. For the most part, they are glorified bingo halls with slot machines. The list of available games at Idaho’s casinos is quite short and lacks diversity of choice. Here are the games you can play:
- Slot machines (video gaming machines)
- Virtual table games (also video gaming machines)
- Live bingo
Sadly, that’s it, though the tribes endeavored to spice things up with the inclusion of virtual table games.
Horse betting in Idaho
One of the few forms of gambling in Idaho that is alive and well is betting on horse racing. Idaho has both live and online horse betting options available for its inhabitants.
There are only a limited number of approved race days in the state. The Idaho Racing Commission, which oversees the industry, usually only allows for two dozen or so races each year. The rationale behind this limitation is not immediately clear, although the winter weather that Idaho commonly experiences surely plays a role. At any rate, here are the six tracks where you can see live racing in Idaho:
|Cassia County Fair||1101 Elba Ave, Burley, ID 83318||(208) 678-9150|
|Eastern Idaho Fair||97 Park St, Blackfoot, ID 83221||(208) 785-2480|
|Jerome County Fair & Rodeo||205 North Fir, Jerome, ID 83338||(208) 324-7209|
|Oneida County Fairboard||459 S Main St, Malad City, ID 83252||(208) 766-4706|
|Pocatello Downs||10560 Fairgrounds Rd, Pocatello, ID 83202||(208) 989-8618|
|Rupert Downs||60 East Baseline Road, Rupert, Idaho 83350||(208) 431-9766|
However, advanced deposit wagering (ADW) is available throughout the year in Idaho. Although it has multiple applications, the most common form of ADW is betting through horse wagering sites. The ADW moniker stems from the fact that you must put money into your account before you can bet, in contrast to live pari-mutuel wagering.
Idaho has authorized six different sites to provide Idahoans with ADW options. They are:
- Am-West Entertainment
- Day at the Track
- Churchill Downs (Twin Spires)
As we mentioned above, the clear choice from those options is TVG. No other site offers the same level of comprehensive service. Most horse betting sites only seek to make money from bettors.
TVG horse betting, on the other hand, broadcasts news and tips about horse racing in order to educate its customer base. TVG gives you a better chance to find that mutual balance than any other horse betting site.
History of gambling in Idaho
The history of gambling in Idaho is not a proud chronicle of success. Idaho has been decidedly negative on the subject throughout most of its existence as a state. As it stands, residents have only a few options available to them, and there is no indication that any major change is on the horizon. However, it’s important to recognize the key dates for the types of gambling that have come to Idaho over the years, so here is a brief history of gambling in Idaho.
After decades of strict prohibition against gambling in Idaho, the first bit of wagering finally makes its way into the Gem State. The Idaho Horse Racing Act passed in March with the goal of authorizing and regulating pari-mutuel betting on horse races in the state. In addition, the act creates the Idaho Racing Commission, which acts as the industry’s regulator to this very day. Ultimately, Idaho becomes home to six different racing venues with legal and live racing available for betting. A federal decision to amend the Interstate Horse Racing Act in 2000 further expands the reach of horse betting in Idaho, as the state declines to prohibit betting through online racebooks.
The Idaho Lottery sells its first tickets in July 1989. The Lottery Commission sells draw game tickets, scratch-offs, instant win games, pull tabs, and raffle tickets. Roughly 63% of proceeds derived from lottery sales fund public schools in the state. The rest goes to the Permanent Building Fund, which feeds the public colleges and universities in Idaho. The Idaho Lottery is strictly available through retail outlets. iLottery or purchasing over the phone is not permitted.
Bingo, raffles, and other games become legal in Idaho as fundraising options for charitable organizations in the state. The organization must be a legally registered entity for at least one year in its resident Idaho county to participate, but as long as there is no profit from the operation of these activities, they are a valid method for 501(c)3 organizations to raise dollars for their bank account. Curiously, charitable gaming also falls under the purview of the Lottery Commission, which is only four years into its service at the time bingo becomes legitimate. Nevertheless, lottery officials retain oversight over charitable activities in the state to this day, and there are dozens of bingo halls scattered throughout the state.
1993 also marks the debut of the first tribal casino in Idaho. Thanks to a negotiated state compact, the Coeur d’Alene Tribe is permitted to open a large bingo hall on tribal lands in Worley. The tribe spends $2.7 million to construct the 20,000 square foot facility, and games begin as soon as the ribbon is cut. One year later, the tribe also begins accepting sales on the National Indian Lottery, a multi-state draw game that helps bolster the fledgling casino. The debut is the first of seven tribal gaming locations in Idaho.
The tribal casinos receive a major shot in the arm when Idaho allows them to place “video gaming machines” onsite. The machines, though vaguely defined under the law and definitively rejected as being slot machines, are, in fact, slot machines. The tribes have to maintain specific requirements for playing them, but for the most part, they are identical to the slot machines found elsewhere. In addition, some tribal casinos are also offering virtual table games as part of their video gaming machines selection. So, it is possible to play blackjack, craps, and roulette in Idaho, so long as you don’t need a real-life dealer to feel comfortable.
Idaho responsible gambling
Idaho does not maintain a terribly strong offering of problem gambling resources. There is no branch of the state government devoted specifically to problem gambling. The best that the Gem State has to offer on that front is the Idaho CareLine. Simply dial 2-1-1 to be connected to a community resource specialist who can make recommendations for therapists and other providers that can assist you with your problem gambling.
However, it is important to be aware that the CareLine is not dedicated to addressing problem gambling only. It is a general resource operated under the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, and the counselors on staff will likely only be able to give you a general picture of what to do. For more specifics, you should reach out to the helpline at the National Council on Problem Gambling. You can call or text 1-800-522-4700 in order to find referral counselors trained to help problem gamblers. You can also visit the NCPG’s website to connect through live chat here.
The other main form of resource you can use for assistance are support groups that meet in Idaho on a weekly basis. These organizations bring sufferers together with one another in order to provide support, encouragement, and accountability as every member works on the road to recovery. Problem gamblers who attend these kinds of meetings might be able to find the peer support and friendship that allows them to see a way out of their personal ruts.
The best option for this kind of help is usually Gamblers Anonymous. GA has, at last count, four different weekly meetings in the state of Idaho, which is not very many, but they do seem to be active. If you live in the Boise, Pocatello, Rathdrum, or Twin Falls areas, you might be able to connect with one of these groups nearby. Family members of problem gamblers can also find support if they need it through GAM-ANON. Although there aren’t any GAM-ANON meetings occurring in Idaho at this time, if you have a family member who is addicted or you suspect is addicted, you can call 718-352-1671 for help.
Finally, if you prefer not to leave your home or not to meet in person with anyone, you can also visit the forums at Gamtalk. This website is an online community that functions in much the same way as Gamblers Anonymous.
When we usually talk about the problem gambling resources in states, we tend to save the information about self-exclusion until last. After all, it’s the most drastic step you can take. You place yourself on the list, and are criminally barred from entering any of the properties under the purview of the list-keeping organization. Usually, self-exclusion lists are maintained by the state’s gaming regulator. Unfortunately, Idaho does not have a self-exclusion program at this time.