Montana’s Governor Signs Sports Betting Into Law

With a bit of political compromise, Montana has become the first state in 2019 to legalize sports betting in the United States.

Other states are on the doorstep to legalizing sports betting, but Montana surprisingly rushed by all of them in the closing days of their legislative session.

Colorado, Iowa, and Indiana are at the finish line, either needing a governor’s signature or approval by voters.

Tennessee’s governor has not signed a sports betting bill that awaits his signature, but Governor Bill Lee recently said he’ll let the bill pass without signing the measure.

Montana’s bill creates a system that allows the state’s lottery commission to oversee all wagering through kiosks and mobile apps that could be operational before the upcoming NFL season.

With Gov. Bullock’s signature, the measure becomes law immediately as operators immediately scramble to get their sportsbooks and apps up and running.

Democratic Rep. Ryan Lynch was the bill’s sponsor and believes the state will benefit from the additional revenue betting will bring.

“It’s a good day for Montana to be able to see sports betting in the marketplace,” Lynch said.

“I think Montanans will enjoy the new aspect of watching sports for entertainment as well as betting on it.”

Why Are Montana’s Bars and Restaurants the Big Winner of the Sports Betting Bill?

Lynch’s bill will allow licensed bars and eateries to have kiosks and mobile applications that bettors can use on premises for betting of sporting events.

The unique agreement to have bars and restaurants be the hub of sports wagering is the result of heavy lobbying from the Montana Tavern Association.

The bill will essentially give these licensed operators a monopoly over sports betting in Montana.

The executive director of the Tavern lobbying group, John Iverson, feels lawmakers were persuaded by the additional income to the food and beverage industry that props up local economies.

“Extra cheeseburgers; extra slices of pizza, a few more people filling seats,” Iverson said of the benefit to the local licensed eatery in Montana.

“The actual revenue from the gaming isn’t going to be significant (for the bars and eateries).”

Lottery officials have called for early estimates of more than $65 million to be bet by residents and visitors to the state in the first fiscal year of existence.

That estimate would result in around $4 million in taxable revenue for the state after winners and the state’s maintenance fees are factored into the bottom line.

Expectations among legislators are that betting will rise to around $87 million in wagers with $5.5 million set aside for revenue for the state by 2023.

All monies made by Montana through sports betting will be funneled back into the state treasury and a small portion will go to a scholarship fund.

Why Did Gov. Bullock Choose This Bill?

Gov. Bullock vetoed a bill that would give sports betting over to private companies, citing the need for Montana to enter the sports betting market slowly.

“A new market like this cannot support sports wagering under both systems at once,” Bullock said.

“For the market to succeed, Montana needs to enter the sports wagering market conservatively.”

Gov. Bullock said that he would revisit the private option after the current law had a chance to establish an expected revenue figure.

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