A rule that limited where Montana sports betting could be offered was overturned this month in district court, but it’s unclear if that will stick.
The Lewis and Clark County District Court ruled the requirement that sports betting can only be offered by establishments with an alcoholic beverage license was not the intent of the Montana sports betting legislation.
The Montana Lottery, which regulates the sports betting platform operated by Intralot, isn’t sure how it will respond yet.
“The Lottery is still determining what steps it might [take],” a spokesperson said.
Details of Montana sports betting lawsuit
The lawsuit, brought by the Arete Group, alleges the Montana Lottery was wrong to tie sports betting licenses only to bars with liquor licenses. That requirement wasn’t included in the original legislation.
The Lottery knew a lawsuit was possible last year but decided not to delay affirming the rules in October. That led to the lawsuit being filed in January.
There were a few practical reasons Montana decided to tie sports wagering to alcohol licenses. First, the legislature stipulated that the lottery ensure the number of sports betting outlets were sustainable. Requiring an alcohol license limits those establishments to around 1,400.
A general gambling license also doesn’t come with provisions about staying certain distances from schools and churches. Alcohol licenses, however, do include those requirements.
Montana results limited by retail, poor odds
There’s been $11 million bet on sports in Montana since the Lottery launched its kiosks in mid-March. That’s led to about $1.4 million in gross revenue, according to a spokesperson.
There are a few reasons why the Montana market is limited.
There’s no full mobile betting in the state, which means all betting has to be done at a licensed retail establishment. There is a mobile app but it can only be used while at a retail betting location.
Once bettors do eventually get to a retail spot to bet, they’re left with an underwhelming product. With Intralot running the show, Sports Bet Montana offers the same over-juiced odds as GambetDC does.
That’s led Washington DC sports betting to be paced by a retail William Hill sportsbook, which is the only other legal betting option there. Considering Montana has no legal alternative, it’s likely much of the state’s sports betting business is flowing through offshore operators that offer more competitive products.