Steve Bullock, Governor of the state of Montana, made the state the first in 2019 to join the growing list of states where sports betting is now legal. He has signed a bill into law that will have the state’s lottery operate sports betting within Montana’s borders.
Two bills regarding online sports betting & land-based, had actually passed through the state congress and made their way to the governor’s desk for approval. Bullock chose to approve House Bill 725, the Sports Wagering Lottery Amendment Act of 2019. According to the bill become law, the Montana Lottery will be the only operator to offer wagering on sports within the state. The new law also allows for bets to be placed both through mobile devices and at land-based establishments.
Senate Bill 330 was the other bill up for the governor’s consideration. It would have opened the Montana sports betting market to private operators, establishing an 8.5% tax on gross receipts and requiring a $1000 license fee. This bill was officially vetoed in favor of HB725.
Benefits of Becoming Regulated
The governor said that after careful consideration, he felt that the bill giving control to the lottery made more sense for the state and its residents. Bullock explained the reasoning behind his choice, saying, “As many legislators and stakeholders have observed, unfortunately, a new market like this cannot support sports wagering under both systems at once.
“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,” he added.
The governor also mentioned that opening the market to private operators at this time could favor companies with more resources for advertising and promotion. The result could end up being a fragmented market where most of the profits are going to player acquisition rather than to the taxpayers of Montana.
He did, however, leave the door open to the possibility of other players entering the game in the future. “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,” he said.
The next step will be for the state to establish a Lottery and Wagering Commission as HB725 stipulates.
Although it has not been confirmed yet, the Montana Lottery’s gaming technology partner, Intralot, looks to be the frontrunner for supplying the underlying infrastructure that will handle sports betting within the state.