Idaho Gambling & Poker Laws

Idaho Gambling / Poker Laws
Idaho Legal Gambling and Poker Laws

Online poker has swept across the United States, and Idaho - although small in population - has been no exception to the trend.  Just like players in other states, poker players from Idaho want to know whether or not online poker is legal, which sites are the best for Idahoans and what the future will bring for online poker in the state.  Let's jump right into those questions in our guide to online poker and Idaho.

Idaho Online Poker Facts

Idaho Legal Online Poker Sites: Top Picks

Legal poker sites are readily available to players from Idaho, so picking the best site comes down to an analysis of the software, the promotions and the overall quality of the site.  We've identified over 50 key aspects of a good online poker room and graded all rooms accordingly.  Based on that research, here are the top legal real money poker sites for Idaho players:

Playing Online Poker in Idaho

Signing up for an online poker room from Idaho takes only a few minutes and is a simple process.  Players from Idaho have their choice of US-facing online poker sites, as all of the major brands accept sign ups from Idaho for real money play.  We suggest choosing a site from our list of legal poker rooms for Idaho above and following the account creation instructions to ensure the maximum opening bonus.

Idaho's Online Poker Laws

Idaho has fairly clear laws on the general topic of gambling, but online poker isn't directly handled by any particular statute.  Whether playing online poker is legal or not legal in Idaho is a question that does not seem to have been tested by any arrests or trials, so the ultimate answer has yet to be written.  But what about the practical answer?

Any question of legality that could impact your personal or professional life is a matter for an attorney.  Here in this section, we're only looking to provide you with an outline of the law drawn from a layperson's reading of the Idaho statutes.

  1. The state constitution of Idaho prohibits all gambling (Section 20), with exceptions made only for the lottery, qualified pari-mutuel betting and charitable gambling as dictated by law.
  2. Idaho law is one of the few state laws that specifically mentions poker as a form of prohibited gambling.  The statutory definition of gambling per Idaho law reads "risking any money, credit, deposit or other thing of value for gain contingent in whole or in part upon lot, chance, the operation of a gambling device or the happening or outcome of an event, including a sporting event, the operation of casino gambling including, but not limited to, blackjack, craps, roulette, poker, bacarrat [sic] or keno" (Section 18-3801).
  3. It is a misdemeanor to engage is such activity as a player (Section 18-3802).
  4. Interestingly, Idaho has relatively few penalties (when compared to other states) for operating illegal gambling businesses.  This may be a result of the lack of commercial casinos in the state.
  5. While not a direct reference to the Internet, the Idaho constitution does forbid a class of game that would seem to include online casinos.  Even if regulated, operators are not allowed to "employ any electronic or electromechanical imitation or simulation of any form of casino gambling" (Section 20).

The complete Idaho statutes can be accessed via this link [1].  It's always a good idea for everyone to know their state laws, especially if you're involved in an activity the law is likely to address.

Idaho Seeking to Regulate Online Poker?

While players from Idaho would no doubt love to have a locally regulated online poker room available, it doesn't look as if Idaho is interested is doing the legislative work that such a room might require. 

There hasn't been any real movement on the issue among Idaho lawmakers, but that doesn't necessarily mean Idaho legalized online poker is an impossibility.  For example, Idaho could easily decide to tag along with a neighboring state that regulates poker.  We could also see a federal bill that offers revenue to states like Idaho - revenue that will be hard for cash-strapped Idaho to pass up.  The point, however, is that Idaho doesn't look as if they're planning to take independent action to regulate online poker in the status quo.

Idaho & Gambling: The Basics

History of Idaho Gambling

While it's not really thought of as a gambling hotspot in the present, the past of Idaho tells a much different story.  In the early part of the twentieth century, gambling was actually quite legal - and quite popular - in Idaho, controlled not by the state government, but by local governments.   This lead to a flourishing of small casinos and clubs that provided classic gambling choices like poker, roulette and dice.

Idaho's days as a premier gambling destination came to a halt at the century's center, with state lawmakers declaring all forms of gambling prohibited.  That position would soften somewhat over the years, as Idaho slowly introduced several forms of regulated gambling back into the mix.

Regulated Gambling in Idaho

Today's Idaho offers more choices than some states for regulated gambling activities, but less than others.  The big game in Idaho is the state lottery; you can also play Class II devices at tribal facilities and enjoy limited pari-mutuel wagering.  There are also some charitable gambling events permitted under law (primarily bingo).  There are no commercial casinos in the state.

Regulated Online Gambling in Idaho

While Idaho does offer regulated land-based gambling as described above, the state has yet to venture into the world of regulating online gambling.  That means gamblers from Idaho will have to be content playing at sites licensed by other states or jurisdictions, as Idaho simply does not offer residents any state-backed ways to gamble (or play poker) online.

Gambling News From Idaho

Gambling hasn't been a topic of interest for the Idaho media as of late.  With no recent headlines regarding expansion (or contraction), it's safe to assume that the status quo for gambling is set to extend in the state through at least the near future.

Idaho Gambling Research Resources [2].  While it might not sound like a research source, this site is actually a great source of historical information about gambling.  One particular article details a chip from an Idaho club that operated near the turn of the nineteenth century, and provides a wealth of context regarding how gambling operated in Idaho before the state stepped in.

Idaho Lottery Website [3].  Hub for information about lottery offerings, but also the central resource for charitable gambling information, regulation and the like.

History of Idaho [4].  A free ebook from Google Books that covers the very early days of Idaho - which included no small amount of gambling.  Additional related books available from the same link.

Poker and Idaho

Idaho is largely absent from poker's history books, although a number of well-known online poker players have called the state home.  In fact, most of the state's connection to poker has more to do with what players from Idaho haven't done.  To wit:  Idaho is one of only 17 states in the US that has never sent a player to the final table of the WSOP.  The state also produced no champions during the 2012 WSOP.

One bit of neat poker history does reside in the state, however, thanks to resident Richard Jimenez.  He owns what must be the largest collection of vintage poker chips [5] from Idaho's wilder days.   

Sources & Citations For This Article on Idaho Online Poker