The Big Sky State has been bouncing around the idea of how to introduce sports gambling following its legalization in the state earlier this year. There was hope to have everything up and running in Montana before 2020 rolled around, but then it looked like all the pieces wouldn’t be in place until next year. However, it seems that, while other states lag way behind in getting organized, sports gambling is going to see daylight in the state before 2019 wraps up. That is, unless Montana is forced to defend itself for choosing Intralot to support the activity.
The Montana Lottery is going to oversee the activity and has just released its draft regulations for everyone to peruse. Once these guidelines are approved, pending any last-minute changes, sportsbooks will have the green light to start setting up shop immediately. According to the Lottery, this means that sports gambling will be ready before year’s end, most likely in December.
The draft rules have to be subjected to a 30-day public consultation period and a public hearing has already been put on the calendar for October 28 to discuss any concerns. Between the consultation and the hearing, any input will have to be considered by Lottery officials and, if required, changes to the framework could be made to appease the masses.
Montana’s sports gambling industry is going to be supported by Intralot, which was given a four-year contract worth between $4.5 million and $6.1 million a year. However, the unilateral decision by Governor Steve Bullock to award the company the contract has already raised red flags since he didn’t allow the normal bidding process to take place. This is similar to what has been seen in both Rhode Island and Washington, DC, both of which are facing lawsuits related to the rollout of sports gambling in those states.
Expect sports gambling in Montana, when introduced, to be a different creature than what is found anywhere else in the country. The Big Sky State has always had a pioneer’s spirit and this shows with the up-and-coming industry, as well. As opposed to severely handicapping the operations, Montana’s legislation allows sports gambling licenses to be linked to state liquor licenses. This means that there are 1,400 shops that can potentially launch sportsbooks and, with a license price point of just $50, chances are good that almost everyone will want to get involved.
The Montana Lottery is also going to supply those who receive sports gambling licenses with betting kiosks. Registration will be required if mobile wagers are placed, but not for land-based bets – those can be done anonymously. The logic behind this was to “allow persons who are new to sports wagering the ability to experience sports betting without providing personal information [or having an account].”
Montana approved its sports gambling legislation in May, making it the ninth state to legalize the activity since May of last year. With a handful more states looking at rolling out their own markets, the gambling landscape in the U.S. is going to see dramatic changes over the next 12-18 months.