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Add Montana, Indiana To List of States With Legal Sports Betting

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The governors of Montana and Indiana signed approved sports betting legislation into law.

Montana officially became the first state in 2019 to legalize sports betting when Gov. Steve Bullock signed the Legislature-approved bill late last week.

The state’s lottery system will oversee sports betting through kiosks and mobile apps that could be up and running by autumn. The Montana law became effective immediately and its sponsor, Rep. Ryan Lynch, is hopeful it will be implemented in time for the NFL season.

"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."

According to the measure, licensed bars and restaurants can have kiosks and mobile apps that can only be used in those establishments. The new law, which the Montana Tavern Association lobbied for, seemingly gives the association’s membership exclusivity.

John Iverson, government affairs counsel for the tavern group, says the law offers a huge advantage for bars and restaurants with licenses who will likely have new customers who will stay longer because of the ability to bet.

“Extra cheeseburgers; extra slices of pizza, a few more people filling seats,” Iverson said, according to the Associated Press. “The actual revenue from the gaming isn’t going to be significant.”

More than $65 million is expected to be wagered in its first year, say Montana lottery officials. That calculates to about $3.7 million in revenue after payout and expenses.

The legislature actually sent Gov. Bullock two approved sports betting bills, with sponsors urging he sign both, creating competing wagering systems. The second bill, which setup the Department of Justice as regulators would have allowed private businesses to run sportsbooks.

Bullock vetoed the second bill, saying a fragmented market would have generated less money overall.

“For the market to succeed, Montana needs to enter the sports wagering market conservatively,” Bullock wrote. He said the state could revisit the privatized sportsbooks after the system “is tested.”

On Wednesday, Indiana legalized sports betting and approved construction of two new casinos.

Lawmakers reached an agreement in the final hours of the legislative session, and Gov. Eric Holcomb, a Republican, signed the bill on the last day to act on the bill.

Officials are hopeful wagering can begin in September. The new law allows anyone 21 or older to place bets at a casino or on a mobile device after the bettor has registered in person at state casino.

The law also will allow wagers on collegiate sports, but not on high school or other youth sports. It sets a 9.5 percent tax on sports bets with little immediate benefit to state coffers. Estimates say sports wagers will generate $12 million in it first year, less than one-tenth of 1 percent of state tax collections.

“By modernizing our laws, this legislation will spur positive economic growth for our state and for an industry that employs over 11,000 Hoosiers,” Holcomb said in a statement. “Additionally, it will bring in new revenue and create hundreds of new jobs — both permanent and in construction.”

Also, two horse tracks near Indianapolis will add table games such as blackjack at the first of the year, earlier than expected. The law also lets the owner of two casino boats on Lake Michigan to move to a new casino along Interstate 80 and begins the process of building and opening a casino in Terre Haute. Indiana already has 11 casinos.

Montana and Indiana join six other states that have approved sports gambling in the last year after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the ban of gambling outside Nevada. Tennessee, too, will have legal sports betting on July 1 after its legislature OK’d wagering and the governor said he would allow it to become law without his signature.