Last month, Montana Governor Steve Bullock signed off on H 725, making the state the first to authorize sports betting in the year 2019.
On May 3 he signed the bill, allowing the Montana State Lottery to be in charge of wagering on professional and collegiate sports through mobile devices and various mobile kiosks.
However, this week there was another vote. Montana lawmakers tried to override Bullock’s veto of a state Senate bill (S 330) that would have allowed private companies to employ sports gambling operations. The Legislature’s attempt to override the veto failed. Bullock favored the plan (H 725) which would use the Montana State Lottery to oversee the state’s sports betting efforts.
The veto override poll of 150 state legislators, released Tuesday, showed that the override effort fell well short of the two-thirds requirement from the House and Senate. Such polls occur in Montana when, after the legislature adjourns, a governor vetoes a bill which passed with at least two-thirds support.
The veto measure went through both chambers during the whole process with wide support from both Democratic and Republican legislators. The people behind the gambling bills that went through were pushing for a combination of private businesses and lottery systems, seeking competition which would be beneficial for sportsbooks, kiosks and mobile apps.
According to the Associated Press, 24 Democratic legislators who approved the bill voted against the override. Another 28 Democrats who voted for the bill did not vote on the veto override measure.
In an estimation of total revenue, Montana officials predicted that the state would earn $3.7 million during the first full year of legalized sports betting action.
The confusion in Montana stems from two separate bills. The House version, which outlines how the Montana State Lottery would run sports betting, got plenty of traction from Bullock and his peers. The Senate bill would have backed private business to get involved in sports betting; that was the version which failed to survive the veto this week.
Taverns and bars sought to add these legal betting processes but that won’t happen now. This move is similar to what happened in Washington, D.C. early in the year where the state lottery won the bid over a specific sportsbook or private entity.
Bullock, a Democratic presidential candidate for 2020, was heavily involved in this deal. He was in Chicago on Wednesday and was not invited to the first presidential debate that is coming up, according to a Chicago Sun Times report.
Regardless of what happens with Bullock’s presidential bid, he made a lot of leeway fast with the sports betting laws in Montana.
Montana is a large, sparsely populated state – 43rd in population at just over a million and third from the bottom in population density – so it makes sense to bring sports betting to the tourism realm.
Montana, the ninth state to adopt a legal sports betting law since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the federal ban in May 2019, was never going to reach the revenue level in other markets with or without private providers. Besides, Montana has no mobile betting option, which has proven extremely lucrative elsewhere.
Still, time will tell if the lottery option works out for The Treasure State in the long run.