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Montana Lottery Ties Sports Gambling to Liquor Licenses

Public Hearing Received Mixed Reviews

Many stakeholders were not impressed with what they heard at a recent public hearing with one group threatening a lawsuit if the rules were not changed. The anger stems from an attempt by the Montana Lottery to tie sports betting to liquor licenses. One of those in opposition was an investment group by the name of Arete. They argued that the bill does not include the provision that a liquor license is required in addition to a gaming license. Arete threatened to sue if the rules were not changed to exclude the need for a liquor license.

The public comment period which began on October 28th ends on November 4th. The state lottery commission is set to consider action on the rules at their meeting on November 21st.

Not Everyone Opposed the Need for a Liquor License

Unsurprisingly, the Montana Tavern Association (MTA) had no objection to this new limitation imposed by the Lottery. John Iverson of the MTA said, "It's clear through the legislative process that this sports betting product was designed to be in bars, restaurants, and taverns that held an appropriate alcohol license and that are licensed gaming operators".

The Lottery had unveiled draft rules to implement legal sports betting earlier in the month. The bill allows anyone with a gambling operator license to allow sports betting. The need for a liquor license was not part of House Bill 725 but it can hardly be called restrictive. There are 1,400 active gambling operators in the state. It is fair to say that there will be no shortage of options for anyone looking to place a bet in the state.

The Rules for Sports Betting in Montana

Some stakeholders felt that the rules needed more clarification. A representative of the Gaming Industry Association of Montana said that the current rules don't clearly define what types of bets would be allowed which is obviously an important detail.

As for Montana residents that are looking to make a wager, they would need to register for a sports gambling account online with the Montana Lottery. All of the account management can be done online. There will be no actual online wagering which is not legal.

Instead, wagers will have to be made at one of the Lottery's kiosks that will be distributed to vendors. The Lottery's mobile app that allows you to register and manage your account can be used to make a bet only if it is in range of one of the kiosks. In other words, someone with an account can look at spreads and other gambling-related information, but unless you are in close enough range to be able to communicate directly with one of the Lottery's kiosks, no wager can be placed. You must be 18 or older to open an account and place a bet. Winnings of less than $600 can be collected directly from a licensed vendor, anything over that amount has to be claimed through a Montana Lottery office.