With his signature, Vermont Gov. Phil Scott officially legalized online sports betting in the state on Wednesday. However, the work to make legal sports betting apps a reality in the state is far from over. For some people involved in that process, it’s only begun.
It will be months before Vermonters can actually place legal bets on sports from their computers and phones. While bettors watch and wait, sportsbook operators, regulators, and companies that service those entities will be busy.
Scott signs gambling expansion bill into law
On Wednesday, Scott took the final measure necessary to make HB 127 into law. With his signature, Vermont has joined 28 other states and Washington, DC to legalize online sports betting on some level. It’s the third to do so in 2023, following Kentucky and North Carolina.
“I first proposed Vermont legalize sports betting several years ago and I’m happy the Legislature has come to an agreement, as well,” Scott said in a news release. “We know many Vermonters already participate in the marketplace and bringing it above board provides important resources and consumer protections. Vermont now joins many other states who have made this move, and I want to thank Commissioner Knight and her team, as well as members of the Legislature for their collaborative approach on this issue.”
The particulars of the new law for bettors include a minimum age of 21 in contrast to neighboring New Hampshire which only requires app users to be at least 18 years of age. The law also bans wagers on events featuring Vermont college teams with the exceptions of tournaments like March Madness.
Furthermore, bettors cannot use credit cards to fund their accounts in Vermont. The law earmarks 5% of the tax revenue from the activity for a special fund dedicated to support programs that provide assistance to people struggling with compulsive gambling.
At some point, Vermonters could have a choice of as many as six different sports betting apps. The launch of any of those apps, however, is likely still months out.
When will online sportsbooks go live in Vermont?
When HB 127 cleared the Vermont Senate, that body’s majority leader Alison Clarkson predicted that bettors would be browsing lines on licensed apps in January 2024. That might be optimistic but nonetheless possible.
While getting the bill to Scott for his signature took longer than Clarkson projected, the rest of her timeline could play out as she saw. The new law sets the Vermont Department of Liquor and Lottery (DLL) as the governing body for online sports betting.
That body will be responsible for drafting regulations for the activity, among many other duties. In addition to working up those rules, the DLL will select no fewer than two apps for licenses. The law gives the DLL leave to contract with as many as six, however, in a competitive bidding process.
The law also sets the floor for the state’s share of revenue at 20%. While that bidding process could drive that percentage higher, it’s fair to question how fierce the interest will be. Vermont is the second-least populated state in the US and contains no professional sports teams within major leagues in the country.
After completing regulations and selecting licensees, the DLL will conduct reviews of license applications and inspect systems for compliance. If everything checks out, they will then give final approvals for books to launch. While it’s possible that the DLL could complete all those tasks in half a year’s time, Vermonters should not be surprised if the DLL ends up needing more time.
Regardless of how long it takes, none of that activity could begin until Scott signed the bill into law. With his signature, the indeterminate countdown has begun.