Montana Sports Betting Approaches Launch

Montana is expected to launch legal sports betting across the state after the Montana Lottery began to take applications for betting licenses in December. However, with laws restricting bets to be placed at physical locations, the official launch date will depend on when the wagering equipment will be installed at licensed bars and casinos.

US-college basketball match.

Montana’s Sports Betting terminals will soon be deployed across the state, with punters hoping that the industry will launch in time for the NCAA college basketball season in March. ©Keith Johnston/Pixabay

The state legislature legalized sports wagering in May 2019, and authorized the Montana Lottery to overview its rollout and regulation. Since then, the Lottery has been developing its Sports Bet Montana betting terminals alongside establishing industry rules with the consideration of public concerns.

Despite the licensing process being well underway, the Montana Lottery will still need to begin a statewide training program for licensees while Sports Bet infrastructure installation is underway. According to Jennifer McKee, the communications manager for The Montana Lottery, there is no timetable for the commencement of activities.

“We want a responsible rollout of sports-betting equipment and sports betting in general,” McKee said while maintaining that the Lottery expects to “have Montanans participating in sports betting as quickly as possible.” McKee went as far to suggest that wagering could commence as soon as March.

This is bound to make licensees like Chris Gillette, owner of Fatt Boys Sports Bar and Casino in Kalispell, happy. “Our facilities are designed for sports betting,” he said. “It will bring a lot more excitement to our facility.” Gillette particularly stated a preference for a March launch, too, citing the commencement of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament the same month.

However, Gillette was quick to acknowledge that he prefers the state to be thorough in their process. “I don’t want it to be rushed,” Gillette said. “The last thing you need is to get everything started and then it goes down.”

Fortunately, in a recent press release, Montana Lottery’s Director Angela Wong assured the public that they were doing all they could to fast-track the process.

“We’ve been working a long time for this and we’re excited to see that hard work pay off and excited to start the process of launching sports betting.”Angela Wong, Director, Montana Lottery

While the law stipulates that players can only place bets at licensed Sports Bet locations, players can still use a custom mobile app to check the upcoming events, the lines, and bets available. They will also be able to use the app to place a bet when they are connected to the main Lottery system within a licensed location.

A Breakdown of Montana’s Sports Betting Laws

Montana was the first state to legalize sports betting in the 2019 legislative assembly and joins 13 other states that offer legal, regulated sports wagering. It is one of six states currently set to launch such activities in 2020. According to the Montana Legislature, state sports betting is estimated to generate $3.7 million in annual tax revenues.

According to Jennifer McKee, the Lottery will tax sports wagering in the same way it taxes other lottery games. This includes a 6.9% state tax and a 24% federal tax on prizes greater than $5,000. Regardless, the new laws are expected to revive the local gambling industry, which has been struggling in recent years.

While licensees will need to hold a full liquor license as a prerequisite for applying for a sports betting license, the application fee for the license is set at a low $50 to attract smaller businesses. One such small business is Scotty’s Bar in Kalispell.

According to owner Karla Levengood-Swank, she expects sports wagering to make up lost funds caused by the demise of the local horse racing industry. However, she was still unsure about how the process will unfold, including how the installation of the Sports Bet Montana kiosks and the subsequent training will take place or what kind of bets will be legally available.

According to Brian Pellen, a sales representative for Montana Lottery, sales agents and trainers will first begin working in the area that submits the most applications. It is therefore expected that cities like Billings or Missoula will be among the first to see the machines.

To safeguard the integrity of sports leagues, the law prohibits any current Montana collegiate or professional coach, player, trainer, staff member or referee from making a bet on any sports game or event. The law even extends to athletes competing in sports like golf or rodeo.

In addition, to combat the potential for gambling addiction, McKee has highlighted that responsible gambling measures are “built into everything” the Lottery does. McKee revealed that the Sports Bet Montana terminals will include a tool that allows gamblers to self-exclude if their use becomes a problem.

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Panorama of Montana’s landscape with mountains, forest and river.

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