The Montana Lottery began accepting licenses on Monday from businesses that intend to offer the state’s newly created Lottery-run sports betting product, Sports Bet Montana, according to a report by Great Falls CBS Affiliate KRTV.
Of course, that doesn’t mean Montana bettors should start celebrating just yet. While the state’s application process has officially begun, there’s no telling when the program might roll out for bettors.
On Nov. 21, the Lottery finally approved the sports betting rules to govern the state’s program, saying they also intended to begin accepting applications from vendors by the end of 2019. The state’s goal is to roll out Sports Bet Montana to bettors during 2020.
In May, Montana became the first state to legalize sports betting this year. But the state has moved slowly compared to other states that implemented their programs to capitalize on the 2019 football season.
Montana officials seemed content to have a sports betting program ready in time for next year’s football season. The fall is easily the busiest sports betting season of the year in the U.S. market.
Sports Bet Montana license applications are available for vendors to submit via Montana’s eStop licensing portal.
Unlike states such as New Jersey, which allow a myriad of mobile betting options, Montana bettors will be limited to the one state-run option provided by the Lottery, Sports Bet Montana. That severely hampers the revenue potential in a market that’s pretty small (state population 1.047 million according to worldpopulationreview.com) in the first place.
Moreover, once the option becomes available, only bets made onsite at physical locations with a Sports Bet Montana license will be accepted. Bettors can use a mobile app to peruse betting lines, markets and other information, but they will only be able to place bets from inside licensed locations via betting terminals or the app itself, which will use geolocation technology to restrict betting services.
Some Montana lawmakers weren’t too keen on the Lottery’s monopoly on sports betting in the state. After seeing how slowly things have unfolded over the last few months, it’s easy to see why.
After Gov. Steve Bullock backed the Lottery-centric sports betting bill that ultimately became law back in May – and vetoed a separate bill that would have allowed private businesses to add more competition to the mix – lawmakers hoping to see more choices for Montana bettors coud not gather enough support to override a veto in June.
Since then Montana bettors have basically remained in a holding pattern. Instead of having the safe and legal betting option Bullock and other lawmakers promised back in May, bettors have been forced to wait for the state’s lone option, the Lottery’s Sports Bet Montana, to come online. But that doesn’t seem to be happening anytime soon, and with no private competition on the way, it appears Montana will not be in any rush to do it.
In fact, recent history suggests there probably won’t be any rush at all.