Surrounded by Oregon, Washington, Montana, Nevada and Utah, as well as Canada’s British Columbia, Idaho is the 14th largest state in the United States of America, but also the 12th least populous. Its official nickname is the “Gem State”, which is a reference to its reputation for gemstones, as well as its numerous wilderness areas. While the climate varies widely throughout the state, Idaho’s attitude towards gambling, however, can at best be described as lukewarm. Playing free fun online slots at fun play casinos, free play online casinos, social casino apps, Facebook casinos, or mobile social casinos, for example, is perfectly legal, as no money is exchanged. That said, when it comes to actual online and land-based gambling, certain forms are prohibited, while others are not. Let’s take a closer look at the gambling history of Idaho, as well as the legalities and illegalities that you should be aware of, if you’re a resident, and want to know more.
Idaho’s Gambling History
As with so many of the other western states of America, gambling is closely associated with Idaho’s settlement history. During the heady gold rush days, pioneers were more than happy to take their profits and gamble with them at any of the numerous casinos that were controlled by cities and towns. After the 2nd World War, however, a new urban spaced was built just outside of the capital city, Boise, to act as a gambling refuge for the city’s residents. This inevitably sparked an increasing backlash, resulting in a 1953 legislation being implemented to ban practically every kind of wagering game. Ten years later, pari-mutuel betting at horse race tracks was permitted.
In 1989, the first Idaho state lottery draw took place. This would later expand to include numerous inter-state games, while becoming the most prevalent gambling format. By 1993, the statutes surrounding bingo, raffle, and duck racing would be added to cover charitable gambling activities. The 1990s also saw the establishment of casinos on tribal land. These were not, however, fully-fledged casinos in the same sense as those that exist in other states. Rather, they were high-stake bingo halls. While the state initially resisted negotiating with the Native American tribes, their efforts were somewhat rewarded by being allowed to install electronic pull-tabs, as long as these were done in a similar fashion to the lottery.
As for poker, this was still banned, but by 2010 there was some relaxing of the law, due to a pensioners’ game being busted. A massive outcry ensued regarding the behaviour towards these elderly citizens, and laws were promptly put into place, which effectively meant that any future small busts would have to get the approval of the public prosecutor beforehand, ultimately making them quite cumbersome to obtain.
What Types of Gambling are Currently Legal?
The legal age for gambling of all types in Idaho is 18. And, while there isn’t much of a selection when it comes to lawful gambling, Idaho hasn’t gone all out to ban it either, like so many other states. Let’s take a look at what is legal and what is not.
- Land-based Casino Games: Yes, but these are restricted to tribal-land casinos and their “class 2” video games, house-against-player poker machines, lottery-style machines and pull-tab ticket games. The casinos include Coeur d’Alene tribe’s Coeur d’Alene Casino in Kootenai County, the Shoshone-Bannock tribe’s Fort Hall Casino in Bingham County, the Kootenai tribe’s Kootenai River and Casino in Boundary County, and the Nez Perce tribe’s Clearwater Casino in Nez Perce County and It’se Yeye Casino in Lewis County.
- State Lottery: Yes, this is the most popular form of gambling in the state of Idaho, and includes inter-state games like the PowerBall.
- Online Casino Games: No, but this is a bit of a grey area, because nothing overtly states that online gambling is banned, either. That said, the statutes are regarded as broad enough to be considered illegal, so we’d recommend you only gamble online at fully licensed and regulated offshore casinos that accept players from Idaho – these include Bovada, BetOnline and Slots.LV, to name just a few. No-one that we know of has ever been arrested for playing online casino games, but that’s because the state is more likely to go after actual groups or individuals that are profiting from operating online casinos based within the state itself, as opposed to actual players.
- Free Play Online Gaming: Yes. As entertainment is the key goal here, and no actual money is being exchanged, you can safely engage in this type of gambling. Simply perform a search for any of the following: Facebook casinos, how to play at Facebook casinos, free fun online slots, fun play casinos, mobile social casinos, or free play online casinos.
- Land-based Poker Games: No, as this is regarded as a game of chance, as opposed to one of skill, and is specifically referred to in Idaho’s anti-gambling laws. There is, however, some softening of attitudes towards this form of gambling, so watch this space.
- Online Poker Games: No, as this also falls under Idaho’s general decrees restricting online gambling. However, offshore sites like Zynga, Governor of Poker, and FreshDeck, are friendly towards Idahoans.
- Land-based Sports Betting: Yes. This is limited to pari-mutuel betting at horse race tracks that are licensed, as well as billiards and pool.
- Online Sports Betting: No, but like online casino games and poker, there are fully licensed and regulated offshore online sports betting sites like BetOnline, 5Dimes, Bovada, and SportsBetting that accept Idahoans.
- Bingo: Yes, but these come with restrictions – each game has to be licensed and must include prize money and age limits.
The “Gem State” is not the most open-minded regarding gambling, but it’s also not the most anti-gambling state, either. The state lottery and pari-mutuel betting are legal, as well as “class 2” gambling at the tribal casinos, but options for more varied online and live casino games, as well as poker, can rather be found in neighbouring states like Washington, or further south in Nevada. As for online gambling, it doesn’t look like there is any strong public or political will to make it explicitly legal, but till that happens, Idahoans can play at licensed and regulated offshore casinos instead. And, if you’re still concerned about the arm of the law, you can always play at fun play casinos with total peace of mind. As always, be safe, be responsible, and enjoy!