Several states have been discussing sports betting legalization this year, but Montana has been one of the frontrunners to actually do so for a few months now. After approving a bill in both the state’s House and Senate, all that was left was a signature of approval from the Governor.
This past Friday, Montana’s Governor, Steve Bullock, finally signed and approved the supported sports betting bill, which effectively legalizes the act within the state (corresponding to the limitations of the language in the bill). With Governor Bullock’s approval of the bill, it makes Montana the first state to legalize sports betting in 2019!
With the bill now approved, sports betting is immediately legal, although there likely won’t be any infrastructure established for a few months. The legislation will place the Lottery Commission of Montana in charge of overseeing sports betting. The state plans to have sports betting available by the beginning of the football season, which starts in September this year.
One thing unique about Montana’s bill is that it includes a provision for allowing mobile sports betting within specified locations. Most states that do have legalized sports betting don’t allow it on mobile, but you can do so in Montana if you are located within a licensed restaurant or bar establishment. This was pushed for quite strongly by the Montana Tavern Association, and will certainly help generate extra revenue to bars and restaurants that attract sports bettors.
A large reason why the bill was approved was because of the revenue it will generate for the state. Lawmakers estimated that residents would bet more than $60 million in the first year of legalization, which would result in almost $4 million in tax revenue for Montana.
Although Governor Bullock signed off on this sports betting bill, he did in fact veto another one. There was a competing bill sent to him for approval that would’ve allowed private sportsbooks to operate. Governor Bullock ultimately vetoed the bill because he believed that the state’s Lottery is already a perfect environment and that private sportsbooks can create unwanted monopolies.
With that said and done, only the Montana Lottery may oversee and distribute licenses for sportsbook operators. It may not be until September that you can place a wager, but it is definitely a great sign to see Montana be the first state to legalize this year!