Montana Sports Betting: Two Bills Sent to Governor

People line up to place their wagers on June 14, 2018 at the Monmouth Park Sports Book on the first day of legal sports betting in the state, in Monmouth Park in Oceanport, New Jersey. - New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy on June 11, 2018 signed a law that authorized legal sports betting in New Jersey, ending a nearly decade-long saga that included a multimillion court battle against the nation's top sports leagues and a landmark ruling from the nation's highest court. (Photo by DOMINICK REUTER / AFP) (Photo credit should read DOMINICK REUTER/AFP/Getty Images)

Residents of the Big Sky State soon won’t have to travel to nearby Nevada in order to legally bet on sports.

On Thursday, April 18, the second of two bills to legalize and regulate sports betting in the state of Montana were sent to the desk of Gov. Steve Bullock. Bullock is expected to sign at least one of them into law.

Which one of them, if Bullock doesn’t sign them both, will make an important difference for Montana residents. HB0725 would authorize the state’s lottery to operate the state’s gaming, while SB0330 would put the state’s attorney general’s office in charge of that duty. As previously mentioned, it’s possible that Bullock could sign both.

If Bullock does sign both bills into law that would afford Montana residents the most options when it comes to where to place their bets. Kiosks could be placed in places like sports bars, allowing customers to make their wagers. The bills would also allow bettors to place their bets on mobile devices, as long as the devices are physically within a certain range of the authorized kiosks.

The biggest difference between the two bills is the time at which the programs could be initiated. The lottery bill would get legal sports betting up and rolling within six months, while June 2020 is the target date for the attorney-general-run model.

Neither bill includes any of the provisions that professional sports leagues like MLB and the NBA have been lobbying for. Sportsbooks will not be required to purchase official data from the leagues to set their bets, pay a private tax to the sports leagues, or share their data with the leagues. Additionally, the leagues are guaranteed no right to ask the operator to exclude certain types of bets.

If Bullock does veto both bills, legislators will have to begin the process anew. The third option for Bullock is to not act at all, letting the bills pass into law without his signature after 10 days. If Bullock signs both/either bill(s) or lets them pass into law, Montana will become the eighth state where betting on sports is legal. Delaware, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, and Rhode Island are the others. Currently, Nevada and New Jersey are the only two states which allow mobile betting that is completely untethered to a land-based operator.

In other similar news on Thursday, Iowa’s state Senate passed SF617. The piece of legislation will now pass to the Iowa House of Representatives for possible amending and debate. If that’s going to happen in 2019, it will have to be soon, as the legislature’s term ends on Friday, May 3. A sports betting bill was also introduced in Colorado on Thursday.

The Colorado bill would put whether or not sports betting would be legalized in the hands of the state’s registered voters this Nov. If approved by a majority of the state’s residents, the door would be opened for the state’s casinos to purchase licenses and begin running physical sportsbooks.

It looks like Montana is going to be the first to legalize sports betting in 2019. It may not be long until other states join the fray.