Montana sports betting bills head to Governor

24 April 2019

Two bills that would legalise certain forms of sports wagering in Montana have been passed to Governor Steve Bullock to be signed into law.

HB725, also known as the Sports Wagering Lottery Amendment Act of 2019, has been cleared by the House, while SB330, or the Montana Sports Betting Act, has progressed after a vote of 33-17 in the Senate.

Bullock has until the end of the current legislative session on April 30 to sign one or both of the bills into law, or Montana would miss out legal sports betting for another year.

Upon passing through the Senate, minor amendments were made to the bills, but core information as to how the market would be run remain unchanged in each piece of legislation. 

HB725 was last week referred back to the House after passing a Senate vote by 34-14. The bill proposes making the Montana Lottery the sole operator of sports betting services in the state across online, mobile and land-based.

The bill also set out plans to establish a state lottery and wagering commission that would take responsibility for operating of sports betting services and also regulate the market. Only licensed vendors would be permitted to offer sports wagering.

Despite having progressed this far through the legislative process, 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 both investigating and processing licence applications, but this has since been removed.

Meanwhile, SB330 has passed the Senate after an amended version was returned by the House on April 15. The bill sets out plans for a more open market, with proposals for licensed operators to offer interactive sports betting platforms via a website or a mobile device to consumers inside or on the premises of a licensed gambling facility.

Unlike HB725, this bill is much more detailed in terms of how much operators are likely to pay in terms of licence fees and taxes, should it come into law.

Licensees would pay tax on a quarterly basis, based on 8.5% of their adjusted gross sports betting receipts for the period. Operators would also pay a yearly fee of $100 for each kiosk placed within a gambling facility.

In terms of licences, operators would need to pay $1,000 to secure a permit to offer sports betting in Montana. There would also be an annual renewal fee of $1,000, with licences expiring in June 30 each year.

Licensees may work with a third-party in order to run a sports betting platform. 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.

Meanwhile, discussions over a third bill - HB475 - aimed at legalising pari-mutuel wagering in Montana, have been indefinitely postponed.

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