Montana Wins The Race To Start Legal Sports Betting In 2019
Legal Sports Report

Montana Sports Betting Improbably First To The Finish Line In 2019

Montana sports betting

Montana sports betting officially became legal Friday when Gov. Steve Bullock signed one of two passed bills on the topic.

The Associated Press reports that H 725 received Bullock’s signature and made Montana the ninth state with a US sports betting operation.

A second sports betting bill passed by Montana legislators, S 330, was vetoed by Bullock on Friday as well. Bullock explained why he wanted only one model in a detailed veto letter obtained by Legal Sports Report:

Sports betting is new to our state. As many legislators and stakeholders have observed, unfortunately, a new market like this cannot support sports wagering under both systems at once.

For the market to succeed, Montana needs to enter the sports wagering market conservatively-adopting only one of the two models now. If, in two years, the market can tolerate more entrants, then I fully expect the legislature will revisit whether a second model is prudent for our state.

What the MT sports betting bill does

Bullock approved the Montana sports betting bill that authorizes the state lottery to conduct the activity. Embattled lottery giant Intralot will run the state’s sportsbook operation for the next seven years, according to a release from the company.

The bill includes language enabling mobile sports betting in one of the nation’s more remote states. Intralot would be responsible for administering that process.

Bullock laid out his reasons for choosing H 725 in the letter:

I have spent a great deal of time considering the pros and cons of both systems. Ultimately, however, the Lottery model makes more sense for Montana. Under the Lottery model in HB 725, the state will have the ability to control, monitor, and protect sports wagering products and players through security and integrity protocols, policies around responsible gaming, and policies to ensure that sports wagering is competitive, transparent, and reliable.

Like the private model, the Lottery model protects the taxpayer from risk. But the Lottery model builds on existing infrastructure and is projected to return significantly more revenue to taxpayers.

Senate bill allows more competition

Bullock continued, laying out why he chose against S 330:

By contrast, the private model could risk favoring market entrants with the most resources to advertise and promote their products. In that environment, competition between well-heeled, international purveyors of gambling could lead to a fragmented market with competing sportsbooks spending most of their profits on acquiring players-leaving little margin for return to the taxpayer.

H725 presents a more straightforward path to MT sports betting than its Senate counterpart. S 330 would authorize wagering via taverns and bars in Montana, where those establishments can be licensed for gambling.

That model would allow multiple operators to function in Montana, but it will not pass. A single lottery company beating out multiple sportsbook companies resembles the scenario that played out earlier this year in Washington, D.C.

A third MT sports betting bill, H 475, would have cleared the way for pari-mutuel sports wagering in the state.

[pdf-embedder url=”https://www.legalsportsreport.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/SB-330-Veto-Lttr.pdf” title=”Montana Sports Betting Bill S 330 Veto Letter”]
Adam Candee
- Adam Candee is the managing editor of Legal Sports Report. He covers sports business and news from Las Vegas. Adam is a former editor and reporter at the Las Vegas Sun, Arizona Daily Sun and KLAS-TV. He can be reached at [email protected]
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