Idaho Casinos and Gambling

Short Summary: Idaho is a fairly restrictive state when it comes to its gaming laws.  There are no commercial casinos whatsoever, and while live and simulcast horse racing are permitted, it is still difficult for those tracks to operate profitably.  They are trying to get historical horse racing passed as of November 2018, and it is thought that might be enough to save the racetracks. The state does have a lottery and several tribal casinos that may have machines and bingo, but not table games.

Idaho, sometimes known by the nickname of the “Gem State,” became the 43rd state admitted into the Union when it was officially recognized in 1890. Famous for its mountainous regions and vast crops of potatoes, the state has never been synonymous with either sports or gambling. In fact, it wasn’t until 1992 that significant legislation was passed regarding the latter.

Idaho is somewhat of a strange state because, while they are pretty conservative in their gambling laws, I would expect them to be even more conservative. While they do not have licensed and regulated casinos, sports betting or online gambling and I would be surprised if they ever do have casinos, there are a few types of gambling available:

  • Charitable
  • Pari-Mutuel
  • Lottery
  • Tribal

The first thing to look at is pari-mutuel gambling, which is in the form of live racing of horses. Fortunately, greyhound racing is banned in the state. The problem in Idaho is that they do not have simulcast wagering year round because it is not sufficiently profitable, so the only wagering that can presently take place is on live races as they are being conducted in the state. For this reason, it should come as no surprise that the racetracks are not doing terribly well and only operate a few days out of the year.

There is currently a proposition that will be voted on in November 2018 to allow what is known as, “Historical Horse Racing,” the way it works is that bettors may place wagers on a pari-mutuel basis on video devices on horse races that have already happened. I know that seems odd, but as far as legalized gambling goes, that’s probably the best you’re going to be doing anytime soon in Idaho. Advocates for this measure say that this wagering will make the tracks a place that Idahoans can visit year round and it may keep some of them afloat. The concern that some citizens have is that the live tracks will eventually shut down completely if they don’t come up with some way to bring revenues in.

The big money coming in on this measure is from Treasure Valley Racing, who has this to say about their Les Bois Park location.

I don’t know what better advertisement is that you need something new to stay open than being closed, so let’s hope that the Idaho voters pull together and pass this. Compared to most other states, this will put Idaho still a few decades in the past, which is where they usually seem to like being.

Charitable Gaming is regulated by the Idaho Lottery and is incredibly generous when it comes to their non-profits. Essentially, there is a first-year application fee of $100 for licensing along with a fee ranging from $100-$300 every year thereafter, how much depends on how much the charity pulled in in gaming revenues. Other than the licensing fees, there appears to be no direct tax on revenues whatsoever, which makes Idaho one of the easiest states to get along with if you are a non-profit looking to run Charitable Gaming.

One thing that is perhaps incongruous is that there are permitted to be bigger Bingo prizes than Raffle prizes, that by itself wouldn’t be so odd but for the fact that there may only be up to twelve raffle events per year. Most states do not regulate raffles such as, “Quarter Raffles,” or, “50/50 Raffles,” at all, so it is odd that Idaho should be so strict when it comes to those.

The Tribal Casinos are regulated by compact, but it seems that the State of Idaho basically just leaves them alone. In terms of lottery, the Idaho Lottery brings in less per resident than most others, but that probably has a lot to do with the population density of the state. Most of the residents are fairly spread out, so they may simply not make trips to lottery retailers on a consistent basis. The state does participate in multi-state lotteries such as Powerball and Mega Millions, so that is certainly not the problem.

Legality Of Online Gambling In Idaho

The thing about Idaho is that they would really just prefer not to be bothered with gambling on the level of law enforcement.

18-3802. GAMBLING PROHIBITED.

(1) A person is guilty of gambling if he:

Participates in gambling; or
Knowingly permits any gambling to be played, conducted or dealt upon or in any real or personal property owned, rented, or under the control of the actor, whether in whole or in part.
(2) Gambling is a misdemeanor.

Misdemeanors may be punished with up to six months in jail or a fine of up to $1,000, or both.

In addition to the fact that no arrest for the mere act of gambling online as a player has occurred in Idaho, it actually seems as though law enforcement is not interested in enforcing the state’s anti-gambling regulations at all. If you check this story out.

Law enforcement basically said the fact that there were complaints about the conduct of unlawful gambling gave the police no other alternative but to look into it, and under normal circumstances, it is not something that would concern them at all. They went on to say that they are fully aware that unlawful gambling takes place all over the state, but they just do not consider it to be a high-priority issue. Even the Assistant City Attorney (i.e. prosecutor) said he’d really have no interest in going after those people had it not been for the complaints giving police no other choice.

And, the police let them off with a warning the first time!

In general, it seems that Idaho is more laissez-faire when it comes to gambling than anything else. Aside from their lottery and handling charitable gambling, the state would just prefer to let people do whatever they want to do. For that reason, we think it’s pretty safe to say that online players shouldn’t have much to worry about when it comes to law enforcement.

We have not found any instance of anyone ever being arrested within the state for online gambling from his or her own home and we fully expect that this will never happen.

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Land Casinos In Idaho

The majority of land casinos in Idaho bill themselves as, “Casinos,” but are what would be considered, “Video Poker Bars,” in Nevada or, “Slot Parlors,” in states such as Illinois and West Virginia. The vast majority of them are not so much casinos as they are places that are mainly sports bars that also happen to have a handful of machines.

With that, there are a few locations large enough in the State of Idaho to qualify as bona fide casinos, so we will go ahead and list those. As with the video poker bars, all of these casinos are going to be Tribally owned because they would be completely illegal under the state’s laws off of tribal land.

Fort Hall Casino

This casino is owned by the Shoshone-Bannock Tribe and is located in Fort Hall, Idaho. It features bingo, a hotel and has a few hundred machines also including a room for high limit slots.

Clearwater River Casino

Fully titled the Clearwater River Casino and Lodge and located in Lewiston, Idaho, this property boasts over 600 machines, fifty guest rooms and an 11,000 square foot event center. There’s a sports bar with darts and billiards as well as amenities (including a pool and hot tub) that mostly seem to be themed in the history of the Nez Perce Tribe, so if nothing else, that would be interesting.

Coeur d’Alene Casino Resort Hotel

I have to get this off of my chest, not capitalizing that, ‘d’ feels really strange, but it’s correct not to. Located in Worley, Idaho, this establishment is owned and operated by the Coeur d’Alene People, which really sounds more French than it does Native American. In any case, this hotel is rather large coming in at over 300 rooms and there are a not unimpressive number of eateries at this property.

This is an ideal place for weddings and conferences as it features a full-service spa as well as a golf course that is attached to the overall property.

The casino consists of over 1,400 machines as well as live bingo and keno. This is also one of the few locations in the entire state in which you will find live off-track betting year round. The casino makes it a point to make it known that they have electronic blackjack and the reason for that is that one of the few restrictions the State of Idaho hands down to the Indian casinos is that they are not permitted to have live table games of any kind whatsoever.

There is also a boutique, liquor store, cigar store and gift shop. Surrounded by a beautiful outdoor environment, it really is worth looking into as an excellent escape for a wedding, especially if you’re close enough that travel costs wouldn’t be too bad.

Bannock Peak Casino

It should come as no surprise that this casino is also owned and operated by the Shoshone-Bannock Tribe and it is located in Pocatello, Idaho. This cozy casino features a hotel as well as a 15,000 square foot event center, so it might serve as a nice retreat for a corporate gathering. That is especially true if you are looking to enjoy a relaxing outdoors scene during your conference or event. This place features fewer than 100 slot machines, but we are going to go ahead and list it here because it has live bingo.

The Buffalo Horn Grill offers breakfast, lunch and dinner and there is also an RV Park.

It’se Ye-Ye Casino

It’s got 110 machines, a cafe’ and Bingo. There’s really nothing else to say about it and we probably wouldn’t even bother to list it if it didn’t have live bingo. It is owned and operated by the Nez Perce Tribe.

Best Western Plus Kootenai River Inn Casino and Spa

Located in Bonners Ferry, Idaho and operated by the Kootenai Tribe who seem to have become a franchisee of Best Western, this casino features 445 gaming machines as well as a bingo room. Aside from that, they apparently have a full day spa and a gaming arcade.

Sage Hill Casino

This is basically just a travel center with 100 machines.

Pari-Mutuel Racing in Idaho

Pari-mutuel betting allows customers to place their wager in pools, and winnings are then paid back to those who made successful picks. With the exception of a small percentage being taken by the host, almost all money is returned to the bettors. This form of wagering is common among dog and horse racing, although only the latter is considered legal in the state of Idaho.

The following locations offer legal gambling on horseracing within the state of Idaho. Some also offer slot machines and historic horse racing machines.

  • Pocatello Downs
  • Oneida County Fair Horse Racing
  • Les Bois Park (live horse racing and simulcast greyhound racing)
  • Ida Racing at Sandy Downs
  • Greyhound Park & Event Center (live greyhound events are banned, but races from other states are simulcast)
  • Emmett Horse Racing at the Gem County Fair
  • Eastern Idaho Fair Horse Racing
  • Double Down Betting Sports Bar & Grill
  • Cassia County Fair Horse Races

Slot Machine Ownership

Throughout the United States, various regulations and restrictions exist when it comes to a private citizen owning slot machines. Some states allow their residents to legally own any machine they can get their hands on, while others prohibit any form of ownership.

In Idaho, ID Code 18-3810 states that legal residents can own any slot machine manufactured before 1950. This limits collectors and slots enthusiasts to the old-school “one-armed bandits” with physical reels, while casinos are free to offer any form of electronic slot without worrying about competition. It should be noted, however, that the law limits collectors to displaying their antique slots, and any operation of these games is considered illegal.

Idaho Lottery

In 1988, Idaho residents approved a state lottery via a constitutional amendment vote, and the first drawing took place 200 days later. Lottery drawings are held every night of the week, and the minimum age to play is 18.

The government of Idaho is a member of the Multi-State Lottery Association, and this affiliation allows them to take part in a number of multi-state drawings for bigger payouts. Some of the more popular examples include the following: Hot Lotto, Mega Millions, Wild Card 2, Powerball, and Lucky for Life.

In addition to the above games, Idaho also offers Bingo, Pick 3, and Weekly Grand on a state level. The latter costs $2 per entry, is drawn twice a week, and offers a top prize of $1,000 tax-free per week for a year.

The income from the lottery is dispersed in the following manner:

  • 60% – Prize Money
  • 25% -Public Schools and Permanent Buildings
  • 6% – Idaho Lottery Retailers
  • 4% – Game Support
  • 3% – Administrative Costs
  • 2% – Advertising

Idaho Scratch Cards and PullTabs

In addition to the daily lottery drawings, the state also makes scratch games and pull tabs available through hundreds of licensed vendors. Each year, 50 different scratch card games are issued to the public, with prices ranging from $1 to $20 per card. PullTabs are more often found in establishments such as bars and restaurants, and the cost of playing typically runs from $0.25 to $1.

Conclusion And Prognosis

There’s a bill being voted on in November 2018 to authorize historical horse racing via video display, so that tells you where the state is when it comes to gambling. You’re basically where other racetrack states were in the mid-late eighties. Even the Tribal casinos cannot have table games, but at least they can have the electronic versions of them. In any case, we don’t expect anything big to be happening anytime soon.

If you live in the state and wish to gamble online, it doesn’t seem like this state is in any hurry to enforce its seemingly restrictive gambling laws, so you should have nothing to worry about doing so from your own home.

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