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Montana Sports Betting Bills Head To Governor's Desk

Two Separate Sports Betting Bills Await Governor's Signature And Would Become Law With 10 Days Of Legislative Inaction

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The state of Montana is looking like the front runner to become the first state to legalize sports betting in 2019.

Two separate sports betting bills, SB 330 and HB 725 easily passed through the Senate last week and headed to the desk of Governor Steve Bullock (D). Both bills have bipartisan support and Bullock is expected to sign one of them.

The fundamental difference between the two bills is which agency would act as the regulatory body.

Senate president Mark Blasdel, a Republican, sponsored SB 330, which was passed by a 33-17 vote last Thursday. His bill would put the attorney general’s office in charge of regulating the industry.

Rep. Ryan Lynch, a Democrat, sponsored HB 725. His bill was passed by a 34-16 margin last Wednesday and went the route that plenty of other states took when it came to appointing a regulatory body. Lynch’s bill would put the lottery in charge of sports betting.

Bullock now has 10 days to sign the bill into law. If he does not sign either bill within the two-week period, both will become law. However, some politicians believe that Bullock favors Lynch’s bill because having the lottery run the industry would increase revenue for the state.

Montana has very limited gambling options, which is why the implementation will be very different from other states that already have the option to gamble on sporting events. Thanks to backing from the Montana Tavern Association, there will be kiosks located throughout the state, including in local bars, that will allow patrons to place bets.

If both bills become law, there would be two different types of kiosks. One would be regulated by the lottery commission, and the other by the office of the attorney general.

Currently, Montana has nine tribal casinos and taverns are allowed to have up to 20 video gaming devices that play video poker, video keno, or bingo. The maximum bet on these machines is $2 and the maximum payout is $800.