Last Friday, Montana became the first state in 2019 to legalize sports betting. Governor Steve Bullock signed one measure into law, after being sent two to consider. House Bill 725 was approved, with Senate Bill 303 earning the veto.
The Senate bill would have allowed licensing for private businesses to offer sports betting services. With the House bill, state lottery provider Intralot is only allowed to offer the betting option. This format is the same being used in Washington D.C., though all other areas have opened the option up to private businesses, casinos, racinos, etc.
Bullock sent a veto letter with the rejected Senate bill, stating that he did not want the market to be flooded with several operators. He is already in favor of Intralot because they have an existing infrastructure already in the state and a history of dealing with gaming regulations. With this path to sports betting, the government has control over policing since they only have to deal with one operator.
If both bills had been signed into law, then Intralot would have offered services alongside private businesses. For now, the state will offer licensed bars and restaurants to have kiosks inside for sports betting. Applications for mobile wagering will also be on offer where players can wager from these establishments.
It has been estimated that as much as $65 million or more will be generated in wagers during the first year of betting. Of that amount, after payouts and expenses, it is expected that as much as $3.7 million in tax revenues will be generated. This amount is expected to increase over the next few years with as much as $5.4 million earned by the year 2023.
It will be interesting to see how close to these figures that the state can get to after sports betting is live and in operation.