Montana Governor Signs Sports Betting Bill

  • Montana traditionally has been a state that embraces gambling
  • Three sports betting legalization bills were under consideration
  • Governor Bullock has signed one of these bills into law
  • It allows bars and restaurants to offer sports betting through kiosks and mobile apps
  • Intralot will be the sole provider of the sportsbook technology
State flag of Montana
The Montana governor has signed a bill that legalizes sports betting in the state.

Gambling Tradition in Montana

Montana historically has been accepting of gambling expansion.

It is one of the least populous states in the US, with little more than one million residents. Nevertheless, there are more than 300 locations where gambling is offered.

Most of these facilities are bars and restaurants with video gambling machines. The state benefits handsomely from the tax revenue, which amounts to about $60m (£46m) annually.

The state lottery is also popular in Montana. Ticket sales are about $60m each year, bringing about $14m (£10.7m) annually in taxes.

While there are not any commercial casinos operating in Montana, there are six tribal gaming facilities. Charitable gaming, poker, and betting on horse races are also available.

Thanks to the grandfather clause in the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), Montana had a form of legal sports betting even while the federal ban was in place. The exception was for fantasy football and horse racing betting. Delaware, Nevada, and Oregon also had offerings as part of the grandfather rule.

Since the ending of the federal ban on sports betting in May 2018, lawmakers in Montana have been pushing for all forms of sports betting to be legal.

Push for Legalization

Sports betting is a natural progression for the state. It will generate further tax revenue and deter the black market for the activity.

Three main sports betting legalization bills were considered by the state legislature. With the legislative session ending on May 1, there was urgency to the issue. All of the bills got some support from the legislature, with each of them taking a different approach to legal sports betting.

Statewide Sports Betting Officially Legal

Now that the Montana Governor Steve Bullock has signed one of these sports betting bills, Montana is the ninth state in the county to have legal sports betting. It is also the first state to make sports betting legal this year.

The Governor signed the bill on May 3 after the House of Representatives passed it.

The bill allows restaurants and bars to provide sports betting through electronic kiosks. They can also offer mobile sports betting. These apps will only work inside the specific venue.

As the regulatory framework still needs to be fully drawn up, the government is planning to have sportsbooks open for business by the start of the next NFL season in September.

Intralot will provide the sportsbook technology as a partner of the Montana Lottery, which will regulate and oversee sports betting in the state.

Intralot also is the sole provider of sportsbook technology in the District of Columbia. This has caused some controversy due to its monopoly of the market.

Why This Bill?

Another sports betting legalization bill went to the Governor, but he vetoed it. Under that bill, multiple partners would have been able to get a slice of the action rather than just one. 

He said: “I have spent a great deal of time considering the pros and cons of both systems. Ultimately, however, the Lottery model makes more sense for Montana. 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.”

Upon signing the final bill, Bullock said that using the lottery to oversee the sector “builds on existing infrastructure and is projected to return significantly more revenue to taxpayers.”

In two years, the sports betting sector in Montana will be reviewed to see if any changes need to be made. The projection for the total intake for sports betting in their first year of operation is $65m (£49.8m).

It is believed that intake could rise to about $87m (£66.6m) as the sector matures. While the tax revenues will be small, legal sports betting will increase the revenues of bars and restaurants, which stimulates the local economy.