Sportsbook operators appear ready to complete the set of New England properties this year by adding Vermont sports betting to the fold.
After getting HB 127 through the House, Rep. Matt Birong is certain that Vermont sports betting legislation will reach the finish line by next month.
“This will pass,” Birong told PlayUSA. “There’s no doubt in my mind. Sports betting will be legalized in Vermont this year.”
Why Vermont has come around on sports betting
Birong has worked on sports betting legislation in Vermont for three years. At first, the issue faced a lot of resistance. But over that period, all surrounding states and the Canadian province of Quebec have implemented sports betting.
“We’re kind of on an island. So the scope and breadth of the activity, legal and underground, helped a lot of folks come to terms with the fact that it was going on anyway and the best approach was to make it legal and utilize some of the revenue to invest in recovery/prevention treatment.”
The Vermont Department of Liquor and Lottery made legalizing sports betting its top legislative priority this year. And Birong knows Gov. Phil Scott will sign the bill. Scott included $2.6 million in sports betting revenue in his 2024 executive budget.
Birong was tasked to lead the issue by House Speaker Jill Krowinski.
“I’m not a gambler, but my family is from the Bronx and I spent a lot of time as a kid hanging out in Irish pubs with bookies,” Birong said. “I understand the mechanisms and jargon of bookmaking due to my family.”
Fiscal projections have Vermont sports betting creating $10 million to $15 million in annual state revenue at market maturity. But Vermont is the second-smallest state by population behind Wyoming. So that amount of money is more meaningful than in other states.
“It’s good money,” Birong said. “It’s not going to change big things but it’s also not decimal dust.”
Vermont sports betting details
Birong’s bill passed the House by a voice vote on March 24. It was the first chamber passage for Vermont sports betting.
Key details of HB 127 include:
- Legalizes online sports betting through mobile applications.
- Tasks the Department of Liquor and Lottery to choose between two and six mobile sportsbook operators through a competitive bidding process. The Department can choose only one sportsbook if there are not two qualified applicants.
- An annual license fee of $275,000.
- Prohibits gambling on in-state college teams, except in tournaments such as March Madness.
- Includes betting on horse races.
- Minimum age requirement of 21 years old.
- Contributes at least $250,000 annually to the Responsible Gaming Special Fund.
The bill does not allow sportsbook operators to exclude promotional credits from taxes.
Vermont Senate already taking action
Birong said the House was the slower chamber to come around on legal sports gambling in Vermont. So he doesn’t expect any issues getting HB 127 through the Senate.
He introduced the bill Friday in the Senate Committee on Economic Development, Housing and General Affairs and got a good response.
Sen. Kesha Ram Hinsdale, who chairs the committee, served with Birong on a sports betting study committee following last year’s session. Sen. Dick Sears also served on the committee, and the lawmakers all agreed on the general framework from the committee report.
Birong still thinks the Senate will make changes to send the bill back to the House. But he expects the House to concur with the changes.
The Vermont legislative session officially runs through May 19, but Birong said lawmakers are targeting a May 12 end date.
“They’re going to change something, I’m sure,” Birong said. “But it will just be a few small tweaks, nothing substantive. I don’t see it going to a conference committee.”