There was a slight hiccup regarding sports betting in Montana, but things are still a go for wagering in Big Sky Country.
This year the state Legislature approved two of three proposed bills to bring sports betting to the state.
The first, which has full support of Governor Steve Bullock, would have wagering oversight conducted by the Montana Lottery. Bullock signed that into law in May.
The second approved measure was sponsored by Senate Pro Tempore Mark Blasdel (R). It specified that sports betting be a competitive marketplace which matches the model that most states are adopting. Bullock vetoed that bill after the legislative session ended which triggered an immediate veto-override poll of lawmakers.
Gov. Bullock explained his veto by saying he thought it would be for the state to enter into the wagering arena more slowly.
“For the market to succeed, Montana needs to enter the sports wagering market conservatively — adopting only one of the two models now,” he said in a prepared statement.
"If, in two years, the market can tolerate more entrants, then I fully expect the legislature will revisit whether a second model is prudent for our state.”
In results reported this week, the override failed. In the state house, 67 votes were needed to override and 34 in the state senate — the ending tally was 54 house members and 20 senators. But no worry Montanans – as the first state to approve legalized betting in 2019, you join more than a dozen others, plus Washington, D.C., that already have or soon will have legal sports betting implemented.
This wave of wagering was prompted by the U.S. Supreme Court overturning law more than a year ago that prohibited gambling on sports outside Nevada.
In keeping with the governor’s slow-and-steady outlook, Montana is expected to have legal betting in place in the next year. Others, however, think it will happen sooner than that – possibly in time for residents to bet on the 2020 Super Bowl LIV on Feb. 2.
“We’re in the design phase right now of figuring out how sports wagering will look in Montana, what makes the most sense for us, and we’re moving through the steps as quickly as we can,” Jennifer McKee, communications manager of the Montana Lottery, told MontanaSports.com last month.
The vendor for the Montana Lottery, Intralot, will manage the sportsbook for the state.
Officials stress, however, that the sports betting licenses will be awarded separately from the lottery licenses. All wagers in the state will be placed on terminals inside a licensed retail location. No casinos will be constructed.
“It will be only locations that get a sports-wagering license, and it will only be locations where it makes sense,” McKee said.
As of now, Montana doesn’t have any professional sports teams playing in the state but you will be able to bet on all the professional leagues. State college sports also are expected to see some action, unless you are an athlete at an in-state college or an athletic department employee, then it is prohibited.
Also prohibited, mobile and online sport wagering which excludes fantasy sports providers FanDuel and DraftKings. But that doesn’t mean the fantasy giants won’t eventually find a home in Montana.
The state Legislature next convenes in 2021 when more wagering bills could be proposed.
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