Montana Governor signs sports betting bill into law

7 May 2019

Montana has become the first US state to legalise sports wagering in 2019 after Governor Steve Bullock signed a bill into law.

Bullock has opted to approve House Bill 725, also known as the Sports Wagering Lottery Amendment Act of 2019. Senate Bill 330, the other sports betting bill to reach his desk - and one that would have opened up the market to private operators - was vetoed.

Passed by the House last month, HB725 makes the Montana Lottery the sole operator of sports betting services in the state across online, mobile and land-based.

The state will now move to establish a state lottery and wagering commission to operate sports betting and regulate the market, with only licensed vendors permitted to offer sports wagering.

However, the bill does not disclose details such as how much licences would cost, nor at what rate sports wagering would be taxed. The only fee referenced in the bill was a $50 charge to cover the cost of investigating and processing licence applications, but this was removed earlier in the legislative process.

The failed SB330 set out plans for a more open market, with proposals for licensed operators to offer interactive sports betting via a website or a mobile device to consumers inside or on the premises of a licensed gambling facility.

The bill was also much more detailed on points such as how much operators would pay in terms of licence fees and taxes, should it come into law.

Such measures included a tax rate of adjusted gross sports betting receipts for each quarter, as well as a yearly fee of $100 for each kiosk placed in a gambling facility.

Licences would have cost $1,000 (£763/€893), plus an annual renewal fee of $1,000, while licensees would have been permitted to work with a third-party to run a sports betting platform.

A third bill - HB475 - aimed at legalising pari-mutuel wagering in Montana, were indefinitely postponed following House and Senate approval of the other two bills.