Montana becomes the first state to legalize sports betting in 2019

The state of Montana has become the first state to legalize sports betting in 2019.

According to a report from The Associated Press, Governor Steve Bullock signed HB 725 into law on Friday, making Montana the ninth state to legalize sports betting.

Once the bill was signed into law, it became effective immediately and supporters of the bill hope to launch sports betting before the start of the football season in September.

Bullock initially received two sports betting bills, HB 725 and SB 330. However, Bullock vetoed SB 330 on Friday and only signed the House bill into law.

What’s in HB 725?

HB 725, also known as the Sports Wagering Lottery Amendment Act of 2019, authorizes the Montana Lottery to offer land-based and mobile sports betting in Montana.

The Greek lottery giant Intralot, will be responsible for running the state’s sports betting operations for the next seven years. Intralot was also awarded the contract to power the DC Lottery sports betting app in Washington DC earlier this year.

Intralot will be responsible for overseeing the rollout of mobile sports betting across Montana.

This bill will also facilitate the creation of a state lottery and wagering commission, a new state entity responsible for regulating sports betting.

Why did Bullock veto the other bill?

The other bill, SB 330, would have legalized land-based, online and mobile sports betting across the state.

While both bills sought to legalize full-scale sports betting in the state, the Senate bill would have allowed multiple commercial operators to offer sports betting in Montana.

Stakeholders had supported both bills and hoped Bullock would have signed both bills into law as this would have created much more competitive sports betting market in the state.

As the state lottery is the sole operator in the state, residents will now be limited to one sports betting provider and will not be able to compare odds and different sportsbook offerings.

According to The Associated Press report, stakeholders were disappointed in the decision.

Neil Peterson, Executive Director of the Gaming Industry Association of Montana, said: “We’re hopeful that the Legislature will take another look at the private model. We think that’s where sports betting ought to be positioned, not as a government-run operation.”

In his veto letter, Bullock outlined his reasoning for vetoing the Senate bill on Friday. In the letter, Bullock said that the lottery already has the infrastructure in place and is heavily regulated which will ensure the sports betting market is transparent.

Bullock believes that the private sports betting business model could give operators with the most money an unfair advantage over other operators, creating a divided market that doesn’t generate sufficient tax revenue.

The letter said: “For the market to succeed, Montana needs to enter the sports wagering market conservatively-adopting only one of the two models now. 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.

“I have spent a great deal of time considering the pros and cons of both systems. Ultimately, however, the Lottery model makes more sense for Montana. Under the Lottery model in HB 725, the state will have the ability to control, monitor, and protect sports wagering products and players through security and integrity protocols, policies around responsible gaming, and policies to ensure that sports wagering is competitive, transparent, and reliable.”

In other regulatory news, lawmakers in Iowa, Indiana and Tennessee have sent sports betting bills to their respective Governors for final approval.

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