Montana Legislators Propose Two Bills to Bring Legal Sports Betting to the State
Unlike other states that have seen sports betting bills stall in committee, Montana is racing two bills through the Legislature.
The first bill, HB725 has been proposed by Democrat Representative Ryan Lynch.
The House bill would give Montana's Lottery System the power to bring in a third party contractor to handle the state's sports betting.
The bill found a receptive audience as the House approved the measure by the overwhelming vote of 88-10.
“I think it’s an exciting time for sports betting (in Montana),” said Rep. Lynch
“There are a lot of proposals that are being debated up here, and we’ll see what comes out in the final days.”
The other bill has originated in the state's Senate and was written by Sen. Mark Blasdel.
Sen. Blasdel’s bill, Senate Bill 330, would allow the state to license private sports-book operators to handle sports betting.
What is unique about Sen. Blasdel’s bill is that it would allow kiosks and windows to be set up at taverns, bars and other locations that are licensed for sports gambling.
“I think for the taverns, it’s an exciting thing for them to be able to have another additional way to bring people into their establishments,” Sen. Blasdel told MTN News.
”Maybe a different form of customer that they traditionally don’t have (comes in to place bets.)”
”It’s just a different form of entertainment for people and there’s been a lot of interest in it,” Sen. Blasdel continued.
Much like the House bill, the Senate bill had no problem passing by an overwhelming margin.
What is the Revenue Difference Between the Two Bills?
Montana is following other states hoping that regulation will decrease illegal gambling, provide protection to consumers and add a little money to the state’s bottom line.
Both legislators understand that legal sports betting won’t be a huge revenue producer for the state, but the measures are needed to squash black market betting.
Rep. Lynch’s bill would speculatively create more money for the state over Sen. Blasdel’s bill due to the use of the Montana Lottery system.
The Lynch bill would put about $3-4 million a year into the state’s school scholarship fund for science and technology learning.
In contrast, Sen. Blasdel’s bill will raise around $1.5 to $2 million in money for the state’s general fund.
What Bill Works Best for Small Businesses in Montana?
The Blasdel bill is intriguing because taverns, bars, and other small establishments would have the opportunity to set up a legal betting window.
Sen. Blasdel believes that the open market will allow bettors to find all type of games to play at their local watering hole.
“You can bet on anything from season-long championships, to daily sports, to actual in-game betting, based on plays, and so forth,” Sen. Blasdel said.
“And this is across the board, from every sport, from football to tennis to NASCAR.”
With up to 95 percent of all betting revenue likely to go back to payout winning tickets, the legislators set a marginal tax rate to generate revenue for the state.
Blasdel’s bill would tax gaming revenue at 8.5% percent, a rate that falls in line with other states that have already adopted sports betting.
With neither bill facing much opposition to this point, there soon will be a clash to see what stays and what goes when the House and Senate agree on a final compromised measure.