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Montana Becomes First State To Legalize Sports Betting In 2019

Gov. Steve Bullock Signed HB 725, Which Gives The State Lottery Control Of The Market


With the stroke of a pen from Gov. Steve Bullock last Friday, Montana became the first state to legalize sports betting in 2019.

Bullock, a Democrat, was sent two different sports betting bills. One was from the House, HB 725, which he signed into law, and one from the Senate, SB 303, which he vetoed.

The Senate bill would allow private businesses to apply for licenses and become operators, while the House bill only authorized the state lottery provider, Intralot, to operate sports betting in the state.

This is the same model being implemented in the nation’s capital, where Intralot has a virtual monopoly on the sports betting market in Washington D.C. Washington D.C. passed sports betting last year, but are still working out the regulatory framework and is looking to have everything running by the upcoming football season.

In his veto letter of the Senate’s version, Bullock noted that he didn’t want to flood the market with multiple operators. He liked that Intralot already has existing infrastructure and is used to dealing with regulations. It also gives the government more control over policing the industry with only one provider to work with.

If Bullock signed both bills, it would have allowed both Intralot and private businesses to act as operators in the marketplace.

The Senate bill was backed by Republican Sen. Mark Blasdel, while the House bill was backed by Democrat Ryan Lynch.

“It’s a good day for Montana to be able to see sports betting in the marketplace,” Lynch told the Associated Press. “I think Montanans will enjoy the new aspect of watching sports for entertainment as well as betting on it.”

The bill will allow licensed bars and restaurants to have kiosks and mobile apps for customers to bet on from their establishments.

According to estimates from the Lottery, Montanans will wager more than $65 million in the first 12 months of betting. After an expected 80 percent payout and expenses, the 8.5 percent tax on sports betting revenue will yield the government about $3.7 million in new tax revenue the first year.

As the market matures, those same estimate tax revenues of $5.4 million by 2023. Other states have fallen well short of their original tax revenue projections, however.

Rhode Island passed a mobile sports betting bill after only generating about $150,000 in tax revenue since sports betting went live last November. Officials projected $11.5 million in tax revenue for the first fiscal year, which ends on June 30.