Montana Governor Signs Sports Betting Legislation, 3 More States Waiting

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There has been a flurry of activity of late on the sports betting legislation front. Enabling bills in three states are fully passed and winging their way to the desks of the respective governors.

Montana was in the same boat until it got its signature on Friday, May 3.

Montana passed the sports betting finish line

Population: 1.06 million

Online betting: Yes, but with restrictions

Regulatory body: State Lottery Commission

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock has put pen to paper and signed sports betting into law, authorizing the state lottery to run the activity. This makes Montana the ninth state to boast legal sports wagering in the US.

Athens-based lottery giant Intralot will be in charge of sports wagering, with bettors able to place bets via kiosks situated in bars and restaurants. Mobile betting is also included in the bill, yet apps will only work inside approved venues.

The governor did have two bills on his desk – HB 725 and SB 330 – but he chose to veto the latter which would have allowed private companies to offer sports betting. SB 330 also called for the Department of Justice to act as regulator.

A sole lottery company running sports betting is similar to the model in Washington, D.C.  While SB 330 would have taxed sportsbooks at 8.5% of their revenue, it’s not yet known what level of tax will be applied to HB 725.

In letter by Bullock outlining his reasons for vetoing HB 330, he said a new market like Montana cannot support sports betting under both systems at once. He added:

“For the market to succeed, Montana needs to enter the sports wagering market conservatively – adopting only one of the two models now. If, in two years, the market can tolerate more entrants, then I fully expect the legislature will revisit whether a second model is prudent for our state.”

Democratic Rep. Ryan Lynch, who sponsored HB725, says the aim is for sports betting to be up and running in time for the start of the football season in September.

States still waiting

To get a better grip on the legislation awaiting signatures, here is a rundown of the states on the verge of legal sports wagering after recently passing betting laws:

Tennessee

Population: 6.77 million

Online betting: Yes. In fact, only permits online wagering.  

Regulatory body: Tennessee Education Lottery Corp.  

Tennessee recently became the fourth state this year to give the green light to single-game betting after the Senate narrowly voted 19-12 in favor of passing bill HB 1. The bill replaced SB 16, which the House approved 58-37 a few days prior.

Gov. Bill Lee has indicated he won’t veto the bill. Instead, he is planning to sit on his hands and allow it to lapse into law.

What makes this bill unique is that it is interactive-only because there are no casinos or racetracks in Tennessee. So, bettors will only be able to gamble online and via mobile apps, making Tennessee the first and only state so far with no brick-and-mortar sports wagering options.

As part of the amended HB 1 bill, license fees increased from $7,500 to $750,000 per year and the tax rate doubled from 10% to 20%. The revenue forecast says sports betting will generate $50 million a year for the state.  

There is no cap on the number of licenses, though previously proposal stated 10.

Furthermore, sportsbooks must use official data from sports leagues to settle in-play bets. However, they can use data from third parties in situations when an official league data feed for live betting isn’t available.

Iowa

Population: 3.16 million

Online betting: Yes, although in-person registration is required.

Regulatory body: Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission

By the end of May, we should know whether sports betting has received the seal of approval in Iowa. That’s because Gov. Kim Reynolds has a 30-day window to rubber stamp sports betting legislation after the bill, SF 617, passed the House in April by 67-31 following earlier approval in the Senate.

It’s not clear at this stage if Reynolds will veto the bill, although she did reveal during a campaign debate that she supports the regulation of sports wagering legislation in the Hawkeye State.  

As for the legislation itself, Iowa’s 19 casinos will be able to offer sports betting on professional and college sports to those 21 years and older. The bill includes intrastate online and mobile wagering, although bettors will have to travel to a casino with an ID to open accounts.

There will be a tax of 6.75% of revenue on sportsbooks, which is relatively low compared with other states; it should make Iowa attractive to operators. Only Nevada taxes sports betting at 6.75%.  

Both chambers met in the middle regarding license fees. The Senate had requested initial fees be set at $15,000 while the House had asked for it to be $75,000, so they eventually settled on $45,000. The annual renewal fee is set at a modest $10,000.

Indiana

Population: 6.7 million

Online betting: Yes

Regulatory body: Indiana Gaming Commission

As Illinois continues to debate legalizing sports betting, fellow Midwestern state Indiana beat its neighbor to the punch after legislation passed the Senate by a vote of 37-12 and the House 59-36 in April.

As part of the repackaged H 1015 bill, which is now awaiting Gov. Eric Holcomb’s signature, the bill allows sports betting at casinos, racinos and off-track betting parlors. The legislation also includes mobile wagering throughout the state.

Indiana has elected to block betting on esports, or amateur athletics, for people 18 and younger. Meanwhile, any limits on live wagering and restrictions on data sources will rest with the Indiana Gaming Commission.

Lawmakers set the tax rate at 9.5% of adjusted gross gaming revenue, with 3.3% of this tax going toward problem gambling. On the plus side for sportsbooks, the price of a sports betting license is an attractive $10,000.  

A report published in October by Eilers & Krejcik Gaming suggested regulated sports betting in Indiana could generate $256 million in revenue annually by the fifth year.

The analyst firm also forecasted sports betting to produce nearly $1.7 billion in direct and indirect economic impacts for the state in the first five years.  

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Julian is a freelance journalist who has covered the ins and outs of the global online and offline gambling industry since 2011.

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