Idaho Decides To Turn Off Powerball, Making Oregon Lottery More Appealing

Posted on March 12, 2021

If Idahoans currently don’t have any incentive to cross the state line and play the Oregon Lottery, they soon might.

The news of a possible Idaho Powerball exit perhaps looming later this year means retailers in the Beaver State might see their sales increase.

A bill to allow the Idaho Lottery to continue to sell tickets for its most popular draw-style game recently died in committee. The lottery in Idaho hasn’t given up hope yet. But if the prevailing winds continue, three decades of selling Powerball tickets in the state could soon end.

The backstory on the potential Idaho Powerball exit

In Idaho, like most states, the legislature ultimately regulates gambling. State law says that the lottery can only offer games that are played by people in Canada and the rest of the United States. Later this year, the Multi-State Lottery Corporation plans to expand Powerball.

The corporation will then begin selling Powerball tickets in Australia. And next year, it will begin sales in the United Kingdom. So, the Idaho Lottery needs a change in state law before August in order to keep selling the game.

A bill existed to make exactly that change. A House Committee voted it down, however. One member of the committee, Rep. Heather Scott, said she didn’t support the bill because she feared money from Idahoans would go to support causes in other countries with which she disagreed.

Other legislators expressed different concerns. Those included Idaho not getting its share of income taxes paid by winners, players’ inflated hopes of winning jackpots, and “turning over sovereignty to this Multi-State Lottery Association.”

Despite this setback, Idaho Lottery officials remain optimistic. Perhaps Oregon Lottery retailers should adopt a rosy outlook as well.

Idaho Lottery not giving up yet

After the committee killed the bill, the Idaho Lottery issued a statement.

“Work continues with the Legislature to determine an alternative path forward to ensure no disruption in service to Idaho’s single most popular lottery game, for the benefit of Idaho’s public schools and buildings. At this time, Powerball remains an available game for sale in Idaho.”

The motivation for the Idaho Lottery to not give up is right in that phrasing. Powerball accounts for about $28 million in annual sales. It would be difficult to replace those sales, as few other games have the name recognition and progressive jackpot value of Powerball.

If the legislature continues on this current path, that’s a future the Idaho Lottery will have to prepare for. The same goes for lottery retailers in Oregon. They might suddenly see an influx of Idahoans crossing the state line to buy their tickets before drawings. If that’s the case, the Oregon Lottery might be the biggest beneficiaries of the Idaho Powerball exit.

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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a freelance journalist who resides in Kansas City, Mo. He is a 2013 graduate of the University of Iowa and covers the intersections of sports with business and the law.

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