Winner winner chicken dinner, maybe not in Idaho

Is gambling legal in Idaho? Short answer: yes and no. Gambling was popular in the Idaho territory from the 1860’s to 1890, and it was legal in the state from 1890 to 1953, when the Idaho legislature passed a statewide gambling prohibition law. Through the years, exceptions have been made. If you remember live horse racing at Les Bois Park, you probably remember that betting on the races was perfectly legal there. That’s because the legislature began allowing pari-mutuel betting 60 years ago in 1963. Pari-mutuel betting is the system where your winnings are a percentage, based upon odds, of the amount of money being bet only on that race, minus track operating costs. State lottery games were permitted beginning in 1989. First came scratch-off tickets, then Powerball arrived in 1992. For the first five years of Powerball in Idaho, only annuity payments of the top prize were allowed. The cash option was adopted in 1997, and Power Play was added in 2001. Hot on the heels of the lottery was tribal gaming, which passed the legislature in 1992. There are currently seven casinos located on tribal reservation land within Idaho. Charitable bingo and raffles weren’t legal in Idaho until 1993, even though longtime residents probably remember playing bingo and participating in raffles in some form long before that. Off-track betting was legalized in Idaho in 2011. So where’s the nearest OTB parlor? Oregon has ten, but Idaho doesn’t have any. The legislation to legalize off-track betting was crafted to make it legal only at regular racing venues, like Les Bois Park and the Greyhound Park in Post Falls, and only on race days. Since those two venues no longer have racing, no place in Idaho currently has off-track betting. Historical horse racing games were legalized in 2013, but since HHR machines looked too much like slot machines, they were prohibited again only two years later. A statewide ballot initiative to re-start historical horse racing then lost in 2018. Poker for money in Idaho is illegal in any form at any venue, even in your own home. So what about DFS, or daily fantasy sports betting, like we see advertised for DraftKings and FanDuel? That’s not legal in Idaho, either, sort of. The problem is that no legislation has been passed prohibiting online gambling in Idaho, so it may or may not fall under the laws prohibiting plain old live gambling. DraftKings and FanDuel both accepted bets from Idaho when they first operated, but in 2016 the attorney general asked them to leave, and they did. There are some offshore betting sites that accept Idaho-based bets, and there are Idaho citizens that do use them, and so far nobody has been convicted for doing so, but they’re also technically, for now, considered forbidden. And don’t forget, since offshore businesses have very different rules, dealing with them in any way is, all by itself, a gamble.