State lawmakers spent just over an hour debating a recently introduced Vermont sports betting bill Friday and will take it up again today.
No one in the House Committee on Government Operations and Military Affairs spoke out against legalizing VT sports betting. Instead, discussion around H. 127 revolved around the legal age to play daily fantasy sports, which it could change from 18 to 21.
Why is DFS an issue in VT sports betting discussion?
“Why are we so concerned with regulating it the same way we want to regulate other types of gaming?” Rep. Lisa Harno asked.
One of the few states to pass a law expressly legalizing it, DFS has been legal in Vermont since 2017. As the state allows no regulated gambling outside of the lottery and online betting on horse races, legalizing sports betting would lump fantasy sports into a new category of gaming, according to Committee Chair Rep. Michael McCarthy.
H. 127 sets the legal age for Vermont sports betting at 21, and would task the Board of Liquor and Lottery with regulation. Fantasy sports currently falls under jurisdiction of the Vermont Attorney General, but the AG has never issued any formal agency rules or regulations.
“It would be very weird to have an account on one when you’re 19 and not the other,” McCarthy said. “I’m uncomfortable having these two things exist side by side and pretending that they’re totally independent [if and] when we have a legal sports wagering market.”
VT sports betting debate to continue
McCarthy said he is open to hearing why companies like FanDuel or DraftKings should not have both of their businesses regulated under one umbrella. A second hearing with stakeholder testimony is slated for today. Lawmakers did not vote on the bill Friday.
Vermont’s sixth sports betting bill in four years emerged earlier this month, after a legislative study found the state could benefit from revenue and regulation. It would legalize up to six VT sports betting apps Each would pay $500,000 for a betting license, and a tax rate still to be determined.
Lawmakers did not get into why sports betting has been so hard to pass Friday, as none spoke against it, but the state’s inexperience with gambling has not helped. If Vermont legalized sports betting, it would join Tennessee as the only other state without casino betting to do so.
The last hold out
Vermont became the only northeastern state without sports betting in January after Massachusetts opened its first in-person sportsbooks. Online Massachusetts sports betting is slated for March.
Gov. Phil Scott was one of the earliest proponents of sports betting in Vermont. His recently proposed budget for fiscal year 2023 includes $2.6 million from online sportsbooks. He is expected to sign the bill if it reaches his desk.