A Vermont sports betting study commissioned by lawmakers suggests legalizing the industry in 2023 and gives them a road map for how to do it.
But so far, not one of the 87 bills proposed since lawmakers convened for the 2023-2024 legislative session addresses it.
The Sports Betting Study Committee’s report concludes the state would benefit from the tax revenue and player protections regulated online VT sports betting could provide. It is the second government-commissioned betting study in two years, though no sports betting bill has ever made it through committee.
Rep: sports betting study under review
Rep. Thomas Stevens, who chairs the Lottery Oversight Committee, told Legal Sports Report he is still reviewing the study and declined to comment beyond that.
He is among several lawmakers who have questioned expanding Vermont’s limited gaming market, while Gov. Phil Scott has been open to considering it. Scott commissioned a previous study on the regulating the industry, which produced similar results.
“The Vermont Senate has a history of supporting the creation of a legal framework for sports betting in our state. A regulated market would provide consumer protection in a way the illicit market currently does not,” said Sen. Philip Baruth, who serves on the Appropriations Committee that approved the study. We are encouraged that the study committee came to a consensus on recommendations for a path forward. We welcome these recommendations and look forward to continuing discussions in the coming biennium.”
Key findings from Vermont sports betting study
The report makes several key recommendations for the potential structure of a Vermont sports betting market, based on information gathered from nearby legal sports betting states and given Vermont’s lack of history with gaming:
- A mobile-only sports betting market, at least to start, as Vermont has no tribal or commercial casinos or racetracks that might host a retail sports books.
- A “state-controlled market“ that would allow two to six operators via a competitive bidding process, as opposed to creating a gaming control board that would license each operator one-by-one.
- Tasking the Department of Liquor and Lottery with regulation, which could allow a faster launch than if Vermont needed to create a new gaming-focused agency, according to the report.
Promos up in the air
While the study mentioned the variance between states that allow sportsbooks to deduct promotional bets from their taxable revenue, it made no formal recommendation on the tax perk. It did however recommend the legislature set a minimum tax rate.
It also recommended that the state lottery should refrain from offering its own sports betting product.
“The Committee analyzed states that have established unique wagering platforms and found that those states suffered from slow implementation, lower customer engagement, and lower revenue generation,” the study reads.
Vermont the last Northeast holdout
Vermont is the only Northeastern state yet to legalize sports betting in any form. Here’s what the legal gambling landscape looks like across the rest of New England:
The first New England state to get in on sports betting, Rhode Island casinos started taking bets in late 2018. Today it is the smallest state with mobile sports betting, which is run exclusively though a partnership between the state lottery, IGT and William Hill.
New Hampshire has tweaked its sports betting law several times since legalizing the activity in 2019. Like Rhode Island, New Hampshire has one online sports betting provider: a partnership between DraftKings and the state lottery.
Connecticut is another New England state whose lottery runs a mobile product; however, the state offers more than one sports betting app. Unlike Vermont, its lawmakers had to navigate federally recognized tribes with their gaming interests, which required federal approval. Since 2021, FanDuel and DraftKings have offered sports betting through partnerships with those tribes, while SugarHouse Sportsbook and the state lottery run their own product.
Maine lawmakers successfully navigated obstacles with their federally recognized tribes to legalize sports betting in 2022. The changes allow up to four online sportsbooks, and while regulators have hinted at later this year, there is still no timeline for launch.
Massachusetts was the last New England state outside of Vermont to legalize sports betting, which came after several years of disagreements over tax rate and restrictions on advertising. Online betting is expected to launch in early March. Regulators have been thorough in their vetting of operators and could place even stricter advertising limits on them.