The blunt, honest truth is that Montana residents deserved better. In November 2019, the Montana Lottery Commission approved the rules and the name for what would become Sports Bet Montana. Because it runs through the lottery, the legislation in Montana did allow for betting kiosks to be placed in bars and restaurants for approved retailers. There is also a Sports Bet Montana mobile app.
The ability to legally bet on sports is something that was held from Americans for far too long, so any expansion of sports betting is a good one at its core. The fact that residents of Montana have easy access to Sports Bet Montana and are able to utilize its functions and features from virtually anywhere is a lot better than what was available during the days of PASPA.
On the other hand, this was a disappointing outcome. “Something is better than nothing” is an expression that is getting challenged in Montana to say the least.
Montana passed the House version of the bill, which gave controlling powers with sports betting to the state lottery. The state Senate version of the bill would have opened Montana up for outside operators to come in and set up shop. Oversight would have come from the Montana Department of Justice Gambling Control Division with the Senate bill. Instead, the lottery has a monopoly in the state, which limits the ability to shop around for the best betting odds from different operators.
Montana is the fourth-biggest state in land area in the United States, but 43rd in population, so who knows how many operators would have rushed into the state anyway, but with no competition, Sports Bet Montana has taken liberties with the odds, often offering terrible lines with high vigorish, which creates an unfair house edge for users.
Intralot is the company that the Montana Lottery partnered with in order to provide lottery services, but they also became the de facto provider for sports betting as well. Their lines in a monopolized market border on predatory for users, with vig sometimes as high as -135 and ridiculously unfair money line prices.
That hasn’t stopped Montanans from placing their bets, but it is a shame that their only option is to bet into unfair numbers. The harsh reality is that a lot of bettors don’t know any better and don’t realize that they are basically getting pantsed by Intralot.
So, is something really better than nothing? It could very well be, but for those that bet on sports in Montana, Governor Steve Bullock really hung them out to dry.
For example, here are the Week 1 NFL lines as of May 29, 2020:
Odds at places like DraftKings, BetMGM, or BetRivers would show standard vig of -110. The break-even rate at -110 is a 52.38% win rate in order to overcome the juice that represents the house edge. At -118, which is the standard NFL vig for Sports Bet Montana, the break-even percentage is 54.13%. In essence, bettors in Montana have to get two extra picks correct per every 100 in order to break even compared to other states and operators. That is not easy to do.
You also see the -125 and -111 lines. At other sportsbooks, -111 would never be offered opposite -125. The big money line gaps are unfair to players.
The fact of the matter is that Montana residents that want to bet are stuck using the Sports Bet Montana lines or doing something else that isn’t as safe or secure. If you want to bet, you don’t have a choice. But here at ATS, we want you to be aware of what is happening and how it negatively impacts you. Maybe your voice can inspire some change.
The app and the website are easy to read and easy to navigate. You won’t get confused with what you are doing or have trouble finding what you are looking for in terms of betting options. The app and kiosks are widely accessible from home or when out and about. Those are the three main positives to the Sports Bet Montana app, but they do not outweigh the pricing structure of the odds.
As with anything else, you have to take the good with the bad. Sports Bet Montana looks the part and has given residents an option, but the option is not the one that should have been chosen.