Montana is a signature away from joining the sports betting gold rush. This month, two sports betting bills were approved by the Senate and now sit on the desk of Governor Steve Bullock.
The two proposals are largely similar with the exception being SB 330 calls for sports betting to be regulated by the MT Department of Justice while HB 725 calls for the TN Lottery to provide oversight.
Interestingly, both bills plot a unique path for sports betting in Montana by authorizing the placement of kiosks across the state to accept wagers. A limited form of mobile betting would also be authorized, although customers would only be able to place wagers while physically located within a licensed establishment.
Montana is home to roughly 16,000 video gambling machines (VGMs) that generate roughly $60 million in tax revenue every year. The same types of establishments that currently operate VGMs would likely be among those seeking to install sports betting kiosks. While SB 330 establishes an annual $1,000 fee for operator licenses and a $100 annual fee for each machine, HB 725 leaves the issue of licensing fees to the lottery.
State Senator Mark Blasdel sponsors SB 330 and told MTN News he believes his legislation is exciting for tavern owners as a new way to drive traffic to their establishments. Senator Blasdel also envisions a robust betting system, fostered in part by mobile betting for tavern patrons:
“You can bet on anything from season-long championships, to daily sports, to actual in-game betting based on plays and so forth. And this is across the board, from every sport, from football to tennis to NASCAR.”
Meanwhile, State Representative Ryan Lynch likes his bill because it would be managed by the state lottery and based on existing infrastructure. Here’s how he put it recently:
“The reason the Lottery makes sense is that it’s already existing. So, we have existing infrastructure that’s been already laid out across the state. What this does is allow the Lottery the authority and the opportunity to offer sports wagering within communities.”
A Look Inside Both MT Sports Betting Bills
SB 330 and HB 725 approach sports betting in a largely similar manner that will place an emphasis on wagers being made at kiosks. SB 330 offers provides considerably more detail than HB 725, but we can take a look at both for a preview of what the industry will look like if one or both bills are signed.
- Regulatory body: MT Department of Justice
- In-person sports betting may take place through licensed kiosks at taverns and other establishments already authorized for gambling
- Mobile betting authorized, but only for patrons physically located in an establishment licensed to host kiosks
- $1,000 annual licensing fee for operators
- $100 annual fee for each betting kiosk
- 5% sports betting tax
- Projected to raise about $800,000 per year in tax revenue
- Minimum age of 18 to bet on sports
- Regulatory body: TN Lottery
- Fewer details than SB 330; tasks lottery with adopting regulations
- Allows sports wagers to be placed through terminals operated by the TN Lottery
- Projected to raise about $3.7 million per year in state revenue
- Minimum age of 18 to bet on sports
Awaiting Governor Bullock’s Decision
The fate of both MT sports betting bills now rests in the hands of Governor Bullock. He has until the end of the month to make a decision and his options are:
- Do nothing and let both bills pass into law without his signature
- Veto both bills
- Choose one bill to pass and veto the other
- Sign both bills into law
Some lawmakers have urged Governor Bullock to sign both bills and thereby create a competitive gaming environment. In that scenario, the TN Lottery would operate some terminals while independent licensees would operate others.