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While Idaho takes a dim view of home poker games, their archaic laws don't even mention electronic gambling of any kind. So, for the time being, go ahead and enjoy all that online poker has to offer. Just keep your ear to the ground for any updates.
Internet poker in Idaho is not a cut and dry situation in 2015. Online poker is not specifically mentioned within the laws of the state, so read on for more clarification.
Idaho officially became a state in 1890 and has a long history with gambling. The laws permitted gambling as long as it was approved by the locals, and many communities did just that. McCall is one of the cities where gambling establishments were common in the late 1800s and early 1900s, and it was home to Harrah's Casino as well. The town of Ketchum was one of the richest in the area and offered a number of gambling options, though the Sun Valley resort did not in the 1930s. That meant guests had to travel a mile to Ketchum, and many of them did go to the Alpine, Sawtooth Club and Casino, and Christiania. The latter was the most popular, having attracted many famous movie pokerstars as well as businessmen with connections to the mob. It all ended when table gambling was made illegal in the entire state in 1949. Slot machines and other forms of gambling were then outlawed by voters in 1953. Obviously, Idaho online poker wasn't even a vision at that point in time and remained unmentioned in the laws.
Q. Is there no one in the state legislature who supports Internet gambling for revenue purposes?
A. There are two state representatives - Vito Barbieri and Marv Hagedorn, who would like to see online poker sites for Idaho addressed because of the potential revenue, but they don't think the state's political environment will entertain the idea. They may pursue Internet gambling in the future.
Q. With a history of gambling, why is Idaho now so opposed to it?
A. Many times, a history of gambling makes the subsequent generations that much more opposed and wanting to change ways. A conservative state government also plays a role in wanting to keep gambling to a minimum so that it doesn't get out of control. Many people feel that online poker in Idaho would lead to a societal downfall, and they fear going back to the days of mob-run gambling establishments.
Q. If federal legislation passed, would Idaho opt out?
A. It seems very likely that Idaho would opt out of any Internet gambling or poker legislation and refuse to allow poker sites in Idaho.
Q. Will poker be recognized as a game of skill?
A. Many states are starting to examine the issue, but Idaho is not one of them. Despite recent court rulings and studies around the country, Idaho does not feel the need to address the issue of poker as a game of skill or chance, feeling the current law suffices. Online poker in Idaho will not gain much traction until that particular issue is revisited.
Idaho legalized pari-mutuel wagering on horse races in 1963, then charitable gambling for use by non-profit organizations. In 1986, the Idaho Lottery was established but subsequently voted against by the Idaho Supreme Court. It became official then two years after by voters who approved the pertinent amendment to make it happen, and it was up and running by 1989. The 1990s brought Indian casinos to the state but only in the form of high-stakes bingo because Idaho would not negotiate on the issue. The Coeur d'Alene tribe then started a national lottery over the telephone and Internet to prove a point. They stopped when it didn't deliver a profit and when lawsuits became too pricey, but the tribes eventually won the right to install electronic pull-tab on the basis that they are similar to the lottery. The effort by the tribes tested a law that may be used again by supporters of Idaho poker sites. The gambling age is set at 18 years for Idaho residents.
Poker is considered a game of chance in Idaho, which are outlawed by the state's constitution, leaving little room for Idaho online poker advocates to make the skill game argument. Small, social poker games have continued in the state without prosecution, though that changed in 2010 when a senior citizens' center was raided by police for their illegal social game. No one, including prosecutors, wanted to prosecute, but the state law mandated it until the law was quickly changed to allow the prosecutors to make their own decisions. The old men were then not prosecuted for their low stakes poker game.
Online poker is not specifically addressed by the Idaho Constitution, but it is forbidden to "employ any electronic or electromechanical imitation or simulation of any form of casino gambling." Poker is included in the list of casino gambling games. When the U.S. Department of Justice ruled that the Wire Act did not apply to Internet games in late 2011, Idaho's lottery director addressed the idea of Idaho online poker by saying that land-based gambling comes first for the state, and there were no plans to look into Internet poker sites for Idaho whatsoever. To contact your state legislators, click here: Who's My Legislator in Idaho.
There are currently seven casinos in the state with pull-tab games, and nine horse tracks. None have any notoriety because of the location for the tracks and lack of casino games in the casinos.