A Vermont sports betting proposal is moving through the statehouse, after Gov. Phil Scott said he expects millions from it this year.
The bill (H. 127), introduced by Rep. Matthew Birong Tuesday, would authorize between two to six VT sports betting apps. If it passes, Vermont would become the final state in the Northeast to legalize sports wagering.
First hearing for Vermont sportsbook bill
The House Government Operations and Military Affairs committee invited problem gambling experts to comment on the bill Thursday. All had positive things to say about the bill as they helped guide the committee on ways to shore up protections for problem gamblers.
Those ideas included:
- Adding a floor for problem gambling funding to go along with a percentage
- Including a statewide exclusion program
- Promoting the use of a blocking app like Gamban that can block a self-excluded user from accessing any gambling sites, legal or not
Keith Whyte, Executive Director of the National Council on Problem Gambling, was asked by one legislator if there is a metric for athletes that rig their contests. Whyte said the NCAA does its own report on 25,000 student-athletes every three years which suggests 0.4% of athletes fix their matches, though Whyte suggested that is probably low.
However, roughly 30% report they have violated NCAA gambling rules.
VT sports betting gets executive push
The bill comes less than two-weeks after Scott included $2.6 million in tax revenue from sports betting in his annual budget proposal.
“Our understanding is it has a chance this year of crossing the finish line,” Department of Finance and Management Commissioner Adam Greshin told the House Appropriations Committee, The Center Square Vermont reports.
Scott has been bullish on sports betting, while the legislature has resisted it. No sports betting bill has ever made it through committee.
Could local pressure be key?
With recent launches in Massachusetts and New York, Vermont sports betting has been getting more buzz.
Much of Birong’s bill borrows from a recent legislative sports betting study, which laid out why Vermont should legalize.
Rep. Thomas Stevens, who chairs the Committee on Government Operations and Military Affairs, and House Speaker Jill Krowinski have been among the most outspoken lawmakers against Vermont sports betting. They could not be reached for comment on the study or bill.
Bill borrows from studies
Birong’s proposal tasks the Vermont Department of Liquor and Lottery with regulation, a key recommendation from the study.
Licenses would be awarded via a competitive bidding process, where hopeful operators outline their expected gross revenue, responsible gaming plans and long-term plans for sustainable revenue. Each operator would pay $275,000 annually for a license.
Notably the bill makes no mention of in-person sports betting. That is in line with the study, which cited the state’s lack of casinos or racetracks as obstacles.
What would Vermont sports betting tax revenue look like?
Like the study, the bill does not include a tax rate or specific use of revenue. It proposes a revenue-sharing agreement that asks operators for the rate they would be willing to pay. Similar systems exist in states like Rhode Island and Delaware.
Though it is not set in stone, Scott’s $2.6 million earmark gives insight into the potential tax rate.
Vermont has roughly 41% the population of neighboring Rhode Island, which last year produced $49.3 million in gross revenue for sportsbooks. If Vermont sports betting apps were to see 41% of the gross revenue they do in Rhode Island, the state would have to hold on to roughly 7.8% to get to $2.5 million.
LSR reporter Matthew Waters contributed to this story.