Montana’s Governor Receives Two Sports Betting Bills to Sign
Two bills, one from the Montana House and one from the Senate, have reached Governor Steve Bullock’s desk waiting to be signed into law.
The first bill, HB725, also known as the Sports Wagering Lottery Amendment Act passed the Senate by a vote of 34-14 before the House later passed the measure sending it to the Governor.
The second bill, SB330, or the Montana Sports Betting Act was passed after amending by the House on a 90-9 vote on April 15th.
SB330 then passed the Senate and moved on, like HB725, anticipating the Governor's signature.
The bill would make it legal for anyone over the age of 18 to place a sports bet via an app or in-person.
The clock is ticking on both bills as Gov. Bullock has until April 30th to either veto or sign one or both bills into law.
What is in House Bill 725?
House Bill 725 proposes to make the Montana Lottery the authority over the state’s sports betting in all forms, whether it be land-based, online or mobile.
The bill would create a state lottery and wagering commission that would regulate Montana's sports wagering market.
The commission would approve and disapprove licenses from potential operators.
Even though the bill is ready for Gov. Bullock’s signature, there are no details on how much a license would cost approved applicants.
What is in Senate Bill 330?
Senate Bill 330 presents the plan for an open market on how the state will operate sports betting.
Unlike the House bill, SB330 is incredibly detailed with licensing fees and other costs that operators would incur should they be chosen.
For example, licensed operators would pay their tax on a quarterly schedule with a rate of 8.5% of their adjusted gross sports betting receipts for the three-month period.
For casinos, each machine used to take bets, the operator will pay the state $100.
Licensing fees will run operators $1,000 for the permit with an annual renewal fee of $1,000.
Partnerships with third parties, such as DraftKings, FanDuel or William Hill, will be allowed under the Senate bill.
Those partnerships would fall under a separate associated business license that would have to be approved before the sportsbook could open.
What Bill Will Governor Bullock Ultimately Approve?
With bipartisan support for both bills, Montana legislators eagerly anticipate the Governor’s final decision.
Senate President Mark Blasdel, sponsor of SB330, surprisingly also pushed for approval of HB725.
“Myself and the sponsor of (HB725) spoke about these bills before, and we agreed that we think both should go forward," Blasdel said.
“I think competition creates opportunity as far as what products are out there, but it’s also better to keep it on an even playing field for the bettors and the taverns to have choices."
“I think this is just as good a product as the one that is in my bill, and so I’d like to see both of them go through,” Blasdel concluded.
While most lawmakers believe both bills could work in unison, Gov. Bullock has suggested he has a favorite.
Blasdel told the media that Gov. Bullock prefers the House bill because it keeps sports betting under the state’s Lottery umbrella and within his jurisdiction.
“We’re trying to get the governor to understand there’s an opportunity for all of them here, and that will ultimately be better for the sports bettor and the state,” Blasdel said.