Legal Poker in Idaho

A Guide to Poker in the State of Idaho

Idaho Gambling Laws

In this guide to poker in Idaho you will first find a brief history and overview of gambling laws within this State. Next the issue of whether poker is legal is addressed, including examining key wording from the Statutes. You can then find the options live players have within in Idaho before the status of online poker is covered.

Idaho’s Gambling History

Gambling originally played a key social and economic role in Idaho, from the early settlers in the state right up until the 1950s.  As other States were in the process of prohibiting gambling at the turn of the 20th Century Idaho embraced it and many casinos and clubs appeared across its territory.

This began to change after World War 2 when slot machines became banned in Boise due to concerns of how such gambling was affecting residents. The result was a new gambling establishment being set up just outside city limits, after those living there were persuaded to form their own town known as Garden City which immediately licensed slot machines.

Garden City soon built up a ‘sin city’ reputation and the Boise began looking for ways to shut it down. This started the process which resulted in the 1953 legislation which banned the vast majority of gambling across the State. Now residents are only able to gamble in tribal casinos, offering limited games, and in pooled betting at licensed racetracks. There is some charitable gambling in Idaho such as bingo and raffles although each event requires a license.

Is Poker Legal in Idaho?

Chapter 38-18-3801 of Idaho state law defines gambling as risking a “…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…”

As such not only is poker defined as illegal gambling within the State, it is specifically named. This would make overturning the classification extremely hard, not to mention that the law states such games only need to contain an element of chance, making a skill game argument redundant.

Live Poker Options for Idaho Players

The casinos in Idaho are only able to offer ‘class 2’ video games and ‘Pull tab’ lottery tickets. There are machine controlled poker variations available, sometimes along with a live ‘dealer’ however these are casino games which operate with a house edge.

Home games are classed as illegal within Idaho and there have been cases where this law has been enforced. The most notable recent case happened when a senior’s penny game was broken up by the authorities, causing a public outcry. Even the free to enter bar leagues and charity tournaments enjoyed in other States are not permitted here.

Therefore the only options for players in Idaho is to travel to a neighboring State offering legal live poker, or to be very careful about who you invite to your home games.

How Online Poker Stands in Idaho

Online poker is not directly addressed in the Statutes, although it is widely believed the existing laws cover it sufficiently. This stance is yet to be tested in a court as no one has yet been charged with playing online poker. 

While adopting policy of widely arresting people playing online in their own homes would be political suicide and a logistic nightmare, given Idaho’s track record with enforcement it is conceivable that known online players or those playing online and suspected of other crimes could be detained.

If you are willing to take the chance there are a number of online sites based in offshore locations which allow US players. These sites, operating mostly from the Caribbean islands argue the right to offer games to US customers under free-trade laws. The companies behind these run legitimate and licensed businesses within the territory they are based in.

Given Idaho’s firm stance against gambling it should come as no surprise there are no current plans to regulate online poker and gambling within the State.

In Summary – Idaho Poker

Idaho is one of the least poker-friendly States. While some forms of gambling are permitted on tribal land, poker is not one of them. Even social home games are not allowed and have a history of being closed down.

The details of the law regarding online poker are unclear at best, despite many within the state enjoying games on offshore sites. There are no plans to legislate in favor of online poker.