Montana sports betting is now a reality thanks to Governor Steve Bullock putting his John Hancock to House Bill 725. Otherwise known as the Sports Wagering Lottery Amendment Act, the bill is a greenlight for bookmakers in the Treasure State.
In signing the legislation into law, Bullock has, in essence, opened a potential treasure chest for sports bettors but not private operators. Although HB725 was given the go ahead by Bullock, a separate bill didn’t make it as far.
Closed Market Conditions Won’t Matter
Senate Bill 330 was almost identical to HB725 but contained provisions for private operators to offer sports betting within the state. Despite its supporters’ best efforts, SB330 was vetoed at the last minute.
In practice, this means Montana won’t be an open market in the sense we’ve come to expect. Unlike free-market states such as New Jersey and Nevada, Montana’s sports betting scene will be controlled by the state lottery.
For those familiar with PASPA, this dynamic won’t come as shock. Under the terms of the Bradley Act, Montana was allowed to offer certain forms of pari-mutuel betting. During this time, the Montana Lottery oversaw betting kiosks alongside its supplier, Intralot.
Wanting to continue this tradition, Bullock passed over SB330 in favor of HB725. While a closed market may limit the options residents have, Montana sports betting will span all mediums. Even though SB330 would have provided a more comprehensive online network, HB725 does contain provisions for live, desktop and mobile sportsbooks.
Future is Bright for Montana Sports Betting
Another potential positive is that Bullock hasn’t ruled out a return for SB330. In his veto letter obtained by Legal Sports Report, the governor said Montana couldn’t sustain a competitive landscape at the moment. However, if Intralot can generate enough revenue in the coming months, there may opportunities to welcome operators such a William Hill and MGM in the future.
For now, however, the finer points of Montana’s sports betting bill will need to be ironed out before the licensing process gets underway. One interesting caveat is that residents will be able to wager on sports from the age of 18. That means Montanans will be able to enjoy the US sports betting revolution three years before those in New Jersey et al.
In context of US sports betting’s timeline, Montana is the first state to make regulatory changes in 2019. By doing that, it pipped Iowa, Colorado, Tennessee and Indiana, all of which have bills on the verge being signed into law. If and when these states join the party, the US sports betting economy will move a step closer to fulfilling its true potential.