Gambling in Idaho is a misdemeanor, as set out in the Idaho Statutes under Title 18, Crimes and Punishments:
“18-3802. GAMBLING PROHIBITED. (1) A person is guilty of gambling if he:
(a) Participates in gambling; or
(b) Knowingly permits any gambling to be played, conducted, or dealt upon or in any real or personal property owned, rented, or under control of the actor, whether in whole or in part.
(2) Gambling is a misdemeanor.” (1)
So in order to know whether or not a certain activity constitutes gambling, we need a definition of what is meant by gambling in Idaho, and the law does not typically rely on dictionary definitions, and generally sets out what terms mean under particular laws, and this is no exception in Idaho, who provide the following definition of “gambling”:
“18-3801 GAMBLING DEFINED. “Gambling” means risking any money, credit, deposit, or any 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 any event, including a sporting event, the operation of casino gambling including, but not limited to, blackjack, craps, roulette, poker, bacarrat [baccarat] or keno, but does not include:
(1) Bona fide contests of skill, speed, strength or endurance in which awards are made only to entrants or the owners of entrants; or
(2) Bona fide business transactions which are valid under the law of contracts; or
(3) Games that award only additional play; or
(4) Merchant promotional contests and drawings conducted incidentally to bona fide nongaming business operations, if prizes are awarded without consideration being charged to participants, or
(5) Other acts or transactions now or hereafter expressly authorized by law.” (2)
So this is as clear as they come as for poker fitting under this definition, as it specifically mentions it in the examples of games defined as gambling. Including but not being limited to…poker is as clear as we could ever expect. I suppose they could have added something like, yeah just in case you weren’t clear on that we did say poker is included, but there’s no need to do that.
This Law In Action In The Idaho Courts
Rather unbelievably, or perhaps not so unbelievably if you consider how wishy washy judges in lower courts can be, a conviction of gambling was thrown out by an Idaho county court judge due to the law here being held to be too vague as it pertains to poker playing.
After police raided two poker houses in July 2013 and charged the operators with running gambling establishments, in the subsequent trial, Magistrate Judge James Cawthorn found that the state code was too vague and that poker may qualify as exempt to the definition of gambling because it may fall under the category of a bona fide contest of skill. (3)
He seemingly overlooked the part about poker being explicitly mentioned in the definition though. If we say that gambling includes poker but does not include bona fide contests of skill, we know with certainty that poker cannot be in this exempt class since that would involve a logical contradiction. For example, If we say that blue is included but some other colors may not, we know that blue cannot be among these other colors.
So whether poker can be construed as a bona fide game of skill or not, which does not appear to be the case anyway, this isn’t even material. Boise city attorneys plan on appealing the verdict, and it’s hard to imagine an appeals court not being able to see through this error.
This is an excellent example though of the uncertainty that exists in the court system regardless of the apparent clarity of statutes. To be fair, the legislature erred by not defining the exemption of bona fide contests of skill more clearly, even though it does prohibit games that contain an element of chance, and then state that bona fide contests are not included, where it would then follow that bona fide contests do not contain an element of chance, but in any event, this does not and cannot negate the explicitly named games in the definition of gambling that they did provide.
Playing Poker In Idaho
While the operators of these poker rooms did get charged, and stand acquitted at the present time anyway, players at these rooms did not get charged, even though they could have, and no one has ever been charged with playing poker online in Idaho or in any other state in the country, so playing online poker does appear to be pretty safe in Idaho at the present time.
Idaho does have land based casino gambling run by Indian tribes, and does feature one single poker room, the Coeur d’Alene Casino in Worley, a rather modest setup with only 6 poker tables, but a nice facility nonetheless and the only live poker room in the state. (4) Players are of course able to travel to nearby states to get further action and the poker hotbed of Las Vegas isn’t too far away.
So the present situation in Idaho does not serve to deter a lot of online poker players from playing their beloved game, nor does it deter even the most conservative offshore poker sites which currently accept Americans from allowing play to Idaho residents, even those who disallow players from several other states.
So things really haven’t changed that much over the years for Idaho online poker players other than the selection of available sites is now limited, but there are still some very good choices out there if you know where to look.
Ignition Poker and America’s Cardroom both still accept players from Idaho, and are our top 2 recommendations for Idaho players. Both offer nice generous welcome bonuses to new players, who get paid to simply try them out and allow these 2 well esteemed poker sites to showcase everything they have to offer.
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