Montana Becomes First State to Legalize Sports Betting in 2019
Bettors in Montana can now place a legal sports bet within the state, thanks to a newly enacted sports betting law which came into effect last week. The law, which gives the State Lottery the monopoly to regulate the market in the precinct, received Gov. Steve Bullock’s signature on Friday. It makes Montana the ninth state to legalize sports betting.
By the end of last year, only eight states had legalized sports betting. Those states were New Jersey, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, New Mexico, Delaware, West Virginia, and Mississippi. A handful of other states, including New York, Iowa, Indiana, and Tennessee, were expected to join the legal wagering market early this year. But Montana beat them to the finish line.
Montana Governor approves one of two wagering bills
Governor Steve Bullock was presented with two bills to choose from. Lawmakers were hoping that he would approve at least one or both to pave the way for regulated wagering in the state.
One of the bills, SB 330, proposed a free-market system by allowing several sportsbooks to operate within the jurisdiction. However, Gov. Bullock vetoed this bill in favor of HB 725, which provides for a Lottery model.
With legal sports betting being new to Montana, the Governor felt the need to adopt a conservative approach at this time. He also explained that he chose the Lottery model because it builds on existing infrastructure. It also seemed more profitable to the taxpayer.
Bullock advised the lawmakers to monitor the market for two years to determine if it can sustain more entrants. By the end of the two years, the legislators would be in a better position to propose another model for the state.
Montana’s newly enacted sports betting law
HB 725 gives the State Lottery, Intralot, exclusive rights to regulate sports gambling operations within the state for the next seven years. During this time, the Lottery will be in charge of approving applications and issuing licenses to sports betting facilities within the state.
Bettors can place legal sports wagers as long as they are 18 years old and physically located within the state. The bets can be placed online via mobile apps or in-person from a land-based sportsbook.
The Montana sports betting law is effective immediately. Sports betting enthusiasts in the state can look forward to legal wagering before the beginning of the football season. Available sports bets will include money line bets, over/under, props, parlays, singles, pools, teasers, exchange wagering, and in-play bets.
However, betting on fantasy sports or simulated games will remain illegal.
Besides protecting bettors from the risks of the illegal gambling market, legalizing sports betting will be a great way of boosting the state’s revenue. The state expects to make about $3.7 million in revenue from sports betting during the first year.
Under the new sports wagering Act, Intralot will receive a 7% commission on each bet placed through their online platform. Licensed lottery retailers will get a 6% commission on in-premise bets.