Montana has become the ninth US state to legalize sports betting, although local bettors may chafe at the new policy’s limitations.
On Friday, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock signed a bill approved by the state’s House of Representatives authorizing licensed bars and restaurants to offer sports betting via electronic kiosks as well as through mobile apps that will only work within the confines of these venues. The plan is to have legal wagering activated before the next NFL season kicks off in September.
Wagering technology will be provided by Montana Lottery’s tech partner Intralot, which was recently awarded similarly monopolistic (and highly controversial) control over sports betting in the District of Columbia.
Bullock vetoed a different wagering bill passed by the state Senate that would have allowed a more competitive market with multiple betting providers. Bullock’s signing statement said the Lottery model “builds on existing infrastructure and is projected to return significantly more revenue to taxpayers.”
However, while Bullock maintained that “Montana needs to enter the sports wagering market conservatively,” he said he expects the state legislature will “assess the status of sports betting in our state and, if appropriate, entertain different and additional models” two years from now.
The Lottery is projecting betting handle will total $65m in the first year, rising to $87m by 2023. Revenue is expected to hit $3.7m in year one, rising to $5.4m in three years.
The Associated Press quoted Montana Tavern Association exec director John Iverson saying he expects his members’ share of the actual betting revenue “isn’t going to be significant” but there would be an overall revenue bump via the extra food and drink consumed by bettors who linger longer on the premises.
Bullock’s signature makes Montana the first state to officially approve legal wagering this year. Tennessee’s governor has indicated he will let his state’s betting legislation become law without his signature, while bettors in Indiana and Iowa are still waiting to see how their governors will address the betting bill approved by their respective legislatures.