Quick Overview: Idaho is a pretty strict state in terms of gambling laws. There are no commercial casinos here at all, and although live racing and broadcasting are allowed, these establishments still struggle to operate profitably. As of November 2018, they were trying to pass a historic horse racing law here, maybe that will help keep the racetracks going. The state has a lottery and several tribal casinos that offer slot machines and bingo, but no table games.
Idaho, sometimes known as “The Gem State,” officially became the 43rd state in the United States in 1890. It is known primarily for its mountainous areas and abundant potato crops and has never been associated with either sports or gambling. In fact, substantial legislation for the latter was not passed until 1992.
Idaho is a bit of an odd state: although they are conservative in their gambling laws, their policies are still not as strict as one might think. While there are no licensed and regulated casinos, sports betting, or online gambling here (and I would be surprised if they ever had casinos), the state does allow several types of gambling:
The first thing we’ll look at is betting on live horse racing sweepstakes. Fortunately, dog racing is illegal in the state. The problem in Idaho is that there are no year-round broadcast betting establishments here because they are not profitable enough. So currently, the only way to bet is through live horse racing, which takes place in the state. Not surprisingly, racetracks here are not as successful and are only open a few days a year.
There is a bill that will be voted on in November 2018 that aims to allow so-called “Historic Races”: players will be able to bet in a sweepstakes on video devices on races that have already taken place. I know it seems strange, but in terms of legalizing gambling in Idaho, it’s probably the best thing to expect in the near future. Proponents of the measure say that such betting would turn racetracks into places that state residents could visit year-round, and it would help keep some of them afloat. Some are concerned that live racing will eventually close completely unless some way is found to generate revenue.
Large sums to fund the measure come from Treasure Valley Racing, whose Les Bois Park facility has also been affected by the current circumstances.
The best publicity is when new establishments work, not close, so let’s hope Idaho voters rally and pass this legislation. This outcome will make Idaho look like a state stuck for decades in the past, but that’s what they usually like.
Charitable gaming is regulated by the Idaho Lottery, and they are incredibly generous when it comes to non-profits. In fact, there is a $100 license request fee for the first year, and a further annual fee of $100-$300, depending on how much the charity has managed to earn from the games. Aside from the license fees, there seems to be no direct tax on gaming income, making Idaho one of the easiest states to operate for nonprofit organizations wishing to conduct charitable gambling.
There is one illogical nuance: the allowed prizes for Bingo are higher than the prizes for raffles. This in itself would not be so strange if it were not for the limitation on the number of events held – no more than twelve raffles per year. Most states don’t regulate raffles like “Quarter Raffles,” or “50/50 Raffles,” at all, so Idaho’s strictness on this issue is surprising.
Tribal casinos are regulated by agreement, but it seems that Idaho as a whole just leaves it up to the tribes. As for the lottery, the Idaho Lottery brings in less money per resident than lotteries in most states, but this is probably due to the state’s population density. Residents are fairly scattered throughout the state, so sometimes they just can’t travel to lottery retailers on a regular basis. The state participates in combined multi-state lotteries like Powerball and Mega Millions, so at least that’s not a problem.
Traditional casinos in Idaho
Most traditional casinos in Idaho call themselves “Casinos,” but in essence they are more what are called “Video Poker Bars” in Nevada and “Slot Machine Halls” in Illinois and West Virginia. The vast majority of them are not so much casinos as sports bars, which also have slot machines.
There are also several fairly large establishments in Idaho that can be positioned as full-fledged casinos; we’ll list them below. As with the video poker bars, all of these casinos are owned by tribes, otherwise they would be completely illegal under the state’s tribal land laws.
Fort Hall Casino
This casino is owned by the Shoshone-Bannock tribe and is located in Fort Hall, Idaho. It offers bingo, a hotel, and several hundred slot machines, as well as a high stakes slot room.
Clearwater River Casino
The full name of this establishment is Clearwater River Casino and Lodge, and it is located in Lewiston, Idaho. It offers more than 600 slot machines, a 50-room hotel and an 11,000-square-foot event center. There’s a sports bar with darts and billiards, and a number of amenities (including a pool and hot tub) that are decorated in the spirit of Nez Perce tribal history, so at least it’s already interesting.
Coeur d’Alene Casino Resort Hotel
I have to admit: writing ‘d’ with a small letter was very strange, but it’s the right spelling. This establishment, located in Worley, Idaho, is owned and operated by the Coeur d’Alene People community, which actually sounds more French than anything to do with Native Americans. Anyway, this hotel is quite large, with over 300 rooms and quite an impressive number of cafes and restaurants.
It is an ideal place for weddings and conferences, as it has a full-service spa and a golf course.
The casino offers more than 1,400 slot machines, as well as live bingo and keno. It is also one of the few places in the entire state where you can find year-round live betting on horse racing broadcasts. However, the casino informs you that blackjack here is electronic only. The reason lies in one of the few restrictions the state of Idaho places on tribal casinos: they are not allowed to host live table games of any kind.
There is also a boutique, liquor store, cigar store and gift store. This location with such picturesque scenery could well be considered as a wedding venue, especially if you live nearby and the cost of travel would not be that great.
Bannock Peak Casino
It should come as no surprise that this casino is also owned and operated by the Shoshone-Bannock tribe. It is located in Pocatello, Idaho. This cozy casino has a hotel as well as a 15,000-square-foot event center, so this facility can be great for a corporate meeting. Especially if you want to enjoy the relaxing views of nature during your conference or event. The establishment only has less than 100 slot machines, but this casino is still on the list thanks to the fact that it has live bingo.
Buffalo Horn Grill serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. There’s also parking for travel vans.
It’s Ye-Ye Casino
There are 110 machines, a cafe and Bingo. Not much else to add, and we probably wouldn’t even bother to include it here if it weren’t for live bingo. It is owned and operated by the Nez Perce Tribe.
Best Western Plus Kootenai River Inn Casino and Spa
This casino, located in Bonners Ferry, Idaho, run by the Kootenai Tribe and seemingly a Best Western franchise, offers 445 slot machines as well as a bingo room. They also have a full-day spa and arcade games.
In 1988, Idaho residents approved the state lottery through a vote on a constitutional amendment, and the first drawing was held 200 days later. Lottery drawings are held every night of the week, and the minimum age of a participant is 18 years old.
The Idaho government is a member of the Multistate Lottery Association, which makes it possible to participate in multistate jackpot draws for larger payouts. Some of the most popular examples are Hot Lotto, Mega Millions, Wild Card 2, Powerball, and Lucky for Life.
In addition to the above games, Idaho also offers state-level Bingo, Pick 3 and Weekly Grand. The latter costs $2 per round, is drawn twice a week and offers a $1,000 tax-free weekly grand prize.
Lottery proceeds are distributed as follows:
- 60% – Prize money.
- 25% – Municipal Schools and Capital Buildings
- 6% – Idaho Lottery retailers
- 4% – Game support
- 3% – Administrative costs
- 2% – Advertising.
PullTabs scratch cards and tickets in Idaho
In addition to daily lottery drawings, the state also runs scratch card games and sells pull tabs tickets through a network of licensed vendors. Each year, 50 different scratch card games are offered to the public, with prices ranging from $1 to $20 per card. PullTabs tickets are more commonly found in establishments such as bars and restaurants, and the cost of the game usually ranges from $0.25 to $1.