Gambling in Idaho is alive and well into the late 2010s, thanks to the popular Native American-operated casinos in the state. However, since a thriving industry may be something of an indication of pessimism with regard to betting on football. Why? As in certain other states with socially libertarian-leaning laws such as New Mexico and Connecticut, the extant casino business hold all the cards (so to speak) with regard to expansion of betting games…
Betting in Idaho
When Idaho enacted its constitution into law along with its new statehood in 1890, betting games were apparently of great concern to the legislators of those days. The original Idaho constitution states that “no lottery of gift enterprise” would be permissible within the state’s boundaries. Of course, when one starts from zero, one can only go up.
And so goes the history of betting in Idaho. For some time, the sheer size of the state made enforcement of gambling law difficult, and the population was small enough to be of little concern to federal authorities, even at the height of the organized crime busts of the 1950s and 60s.Slot machine games – probably from, likesay, “suppliers” who arranged purchase of such slots for Nevada casinos – starting appearing in towns dotting Idaho in the 1940s; by ‘’53, state law expressly forbade the one-armed bandits.
The watershed year for betting-game interests in Idaho was 1988. Not only did the state finally introduce a legal lottery, the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) was passed, and soon Idaho’s Native American tribes were opening casinos wherever possible. Today, seven are open for business throughout the state.
Football in Idaho
Due to its small population and lack of a truly huge media market (sorry, Boise), Idaho has never been host to an NFL team or even a rogue-league team. The Arena League team Boise Burn (woof, terrible name, supposed tribute to firefighters or no) made a reasonable go of it for three seasons from 2007 to ’09, following two 8-8 seasons with a nice 5-2 start to their final year, but surprise! The “af2” league folded abruptly.
Remoteness and lack of nearby competition also stunted development of the state’s college programs for some time (more on this below), and the state’s small population has translated to just 69 Idaho-born players making the NFL – and seven of these played in three or fewer games. The most notable Idahoan ever to play pro ball? Well, let’s put it this way: Denver Broncos and Arizona Cardinals fans may now blame this state for Jake Plummer.
As for college ball, the University of Idaho Vandals are historically the state’s most significant program, but considering things objectivity yields little positivity here. Going into the 2018 season, the Vandals have a cumulative winning percentage of just .434, which would rank them 119th all-time were they a BCS team. In fact, the Vandals will be dropped to the FBS level for ’18.
The program that, through exciting high-flying football, has become the de facto representative of Idaho football in the minds of most college football fans is that of Boise State. The BSU Broncos first played in 1933 and, sure, the team took three straight Big Sky conference titles from 1973 to ’75, but let’s face it: The modern history of Boise State football begins in about 2001.
That season saw Boise State move into the Western Athletic Conference, the association from which Brigham Young University had risen from obscurity to national champion in the 1980s. Dan Hawkins was promoted from offensive coordinator to head coach, and the Broncos took four straight WAC titles from 2002 to ’05. Following their own lead, Hawkins’s OC Chris Peterson was the next BSU head coach; Peterson ultimately won two Bear Bryant Coach of the Year awards, taking the Broncos to the no. 2 spot nationwide at one point in the 2010 season.
The 2006 Broncos beat the mighty Oklahoma Sooners in the Fiesta Bowl, and Peterson’s ’09 team beat the TCU Horned Frogs in the Fiesta Bowl to cap a *14-0* season. Thus did Boise State restart a dialogue about the unfairness of college football championship bestowal and put its them among the truly groundbreaking teams in history – teams like those 80s BYU Cougars or the 2017 Central Florida Knights…
Betting on Football in Idaho
Change has come slowly to betting laws in Idaho, and now that a small group of business interests controls the majority of gambling-related income to the state, they’ll have the lion’s share of the say in changes to those laws.
Case in point: Betting on DFS. In Idaho, daily fantasy sports are illegal for citizens to play. While the law as written had been thought to be in a legal gray area, then-Idaho attorney general Lawrence Wasdan cleared up any legal issues in May 2016. Wasdan settled out of court with DFS providers Draft Kings and Fan Duel, with the companies agreeing to block Idaho residents from playing.
Wasdan stated at the time that “The concern I have is that the paid daily sports offerings provided by these companies constitute gambling under Idaho law. I have a duty to enforce and uphold that law. I commend the companies for negotiating in good faith and agreeing not to make these contests available in Idaho.”
The official statement from the AG’s office concomitantly with the decision noted that “The agreement signed by both companies also provides a path to resume offering paid fantasy sports contests to Idaho consumers, including the Idaho Legislature changing the law to allow for and regulate such contests. Paid daily fantasy sports contests could also resume if a court with authority and jurisdiction in Idaho rules in favor of any form of such contests.”
We wouldn’t count on any change any time soon, though. With Idaho as one of the 10 states not allowing DFS play, it’s hard to imagine then making an exception for proper betting on football.