Competing Montana betting bills progress in legislature

18 April 2019

Two bills that would legalise sports betting in Montana have moved forward, with the Senate clearing one to return to the House and scheduling a third reading of the other.

HB725, also known as the Sports Wagering Lottery Amendment Act of 2019, passed by a vote of 34-14 in the Senate and will now head back to the Montana House, which passed the bill in March.

The bill remains relatively unchanged, with the aim of making the Montana Lottery the sole sports betting operator in the state. The lottery would be able to operate via online, mobile and land-based offerings.

HB725 also set out plans to create a new state lottery and wagering commission, which would assume responsibility for the operation of sports betting services, as well as oversee regulation of the market.

Only licensed vendors would be permitted to offer sports betting while wagering would only available to players over the age of 18.

The bill does not disclose details as to how much licences would cost,  and it is also not yet clear how at what rate sports wagering would be taxed

Meanwhile, another bill seeking to legalise sports betting in the state has been returned to the Senate after it was passed by the House. SB330 was approved by the Senate on April 1, then by the House on April 15, before returning to the upper chamber. The Senate has voted 39-11 to approve a number of amendments to SB330 at its second hearing and the bill is due for a third hearing later on today (April 18).

Also known as the Montana Sports Betting Act, the bill sets out provisions for operators to offer an interactive sports wagering platform via a website or a mobile device to consumers located inside or on the premises of a licensed gambling facility.

Licences to offer sports betting would cost $1,000 (£768/€889), plus an annual renewal fee of $1,000. Platform operator licences would expire on June 30 of each year.

Operators with a licence may work with a third-party in order to run a sports betting platform in the state. Such partnerships would be covered by an associated gambling business licence, which would permit the leasing of sports betting equipment, systems, or other items necessary to offer sports wagering.

All licensed sportsbook operators would be subject to a tax rate of 8.5% of their adjusted gross betting receipts. Licensees would also need to pay an annual fee of $100 for each kiosk placed within a gambling facility.

However, lawmakers have amended the bill to remove a measure whereby a sportsbook operator would pay the venue 5% of the net sportsbook income derived from the premises.

A third bill - HB475 - aimed to legalise pari-mutuel wagering in Montana, which it proposes should be overseen by the state’s Board of Horse Racing. However, the bill has been indefinitely postponed.