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Montana first state to legalize sports betting in 2019


Montana Governor Steve Bullock has signed into law a bill allowing the state’s lottery to operate sports betting, which sees the Treasure State become the first to legalize sports betting in 2019. 

Bullock has approved House Bill 725, also know as the Sports Wagering Lottery Amendment Act of 2019. The bill establishes the Montana Lottery as the sole operator of sports wagering in the state, allowing it to offer betting via mobile devices and land-based channels. 

Another bill that made it to Bullock’s desk, Senate Bill 330, would have opened up the market to private operators, setting out a tax rate of 8.5% of gross sports betting receipts, and a $1,000 license fee. The Governor vetoed this bill in favour of HB725. 

“As many legislators and stakeholders have observed, unfortunately, a new market like this cannot support sports wagering under both systems at once,” Bullock said.

He said that having considered the benefits and drawbacks of both proposed models, he had come to the conclusion that the lottery model made more sense for the state.

“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,” Bullock explained. “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.”

Bullock also noted that the private model could favor companies with the resources to advertise and promote their products. This, he said, could lead to a fragmented market in which the majority of profits were invested in acquiring players, rather than being returned to the taxpayer. 

However, he did not rule out the possibility of a more open system being introduced at a later date: “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,” the Governor said. 

To move forward with the roll-out of sports betting in Montana, the state must now establish a Lottery and Wagering Commission, as stipulated by HB725.

While it has not yet been confirmed, it looks likely that Intralot, the Montana Lottery’s long-term gaming technology partner, will power sports betting in the state.