Montana is now the ninth state to legalize sports betting, with Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock signing a bill on Friday that authorizes wagering on sports in the state.
There were two bills, one initially introduced in Montana’s House and the other in the Senate, which represented essentially two competing systems.
Bullock signed the House-supported bill, HB 725. The bill permits not only wagering at bars and restaurants, but also at kiosks and convenience stores that the state lottery will administer.
The governor chose that bill over SB 330, which would have given the state’s Department of Justice supervisory powers over sports betting. Under that bill, only facilities with alcohol licenses, such as bars and restaurants, could have applied for licenses to take legal sports bets.
Neither bill provided Montana bettors full ability to wager legally online, an option that has proven profitable for states that enacted such a measure.
New Jersey has ascended to second behind Nevada in revenue collected through legal sports gaming largely due to lax restrictions on online wagering, with more than 80 percent of the total amount wagered in New Jersey generated through online betting using third-party apps such as DraftKings and FanDuel.
Conversely, states which don’t allow legal online sports betting have largely struggled to exceed initial revenue expectations. Mississippi, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and West Virginia are each at least one-fourth below monthly revenue projections.
Montana is the first state to legalize sports betting this year, and the eighth to do so since May 2018, when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992. That ruling lets state lawmakers (outside Nevada, where sports betting has long been legal) decide whether to approve sports betting laws.
Delaware, Mississippi, New Jersey, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and West Virginia each have had operational sportsbooks open within its boundaries since the Supreme Court’s decision. Lawmakers in nearly 30 other states are currently debating legislation on legalized sports betting. Governors in Indiana and Iowa are expected to sign respective bills into law sometime this spring and Colorado is a governor’s signature away from holding a November referendum in which votes can approve or reject legal sports betting.
Both SB 330 and HB 725 received bipartisan support in Montana’s House and Senate. And neither bill faced much resistance in either legislative chamber, rather easily getting enough votes throughout the process to pass and eventually go before Bullock to sign into law. Both bills passed the General Assembly last week.
Bullock, who seems to be lining up a potential bid to run for President in 2020, had never publicly supported legalized sports betting before putting his signature on the House bill on Friday. Had he vetoed both bills, there would’ve been enough support in Montana’s General Assembly to override any veto.