This week, a legislative committee in Montana heard testimony on a bill that would legalize sports betting as long as the activity is carried out in bars with liquor licenses. Furthermore, Montana is coming around to mobile betting as long as it takes place inside approved gambling establishments.
SB 330 was sponsored by Senator Mark Blasdel (R-Kalispell) and it will allow Montana to legalize, regulate, and also tax sports betting. He went on to say that people in Montana are already betting on sports illegally and it needs to be regulated by the state:
“This is already something that is happening with a lot of folks. Unfortunately it’s in the black market now. This would set it up so you would have the Department of Justice overseeing it to try to track who’s operating these and collect some tax revenue off of it as well.”
The computer betting would be carried out by sportsbook companies that install the betting equipment in bars. Bars would receive five percent of the net income derived from the sportsbook operation on the premises. The operators would be charged an 8.5 percent tax to the state on adjusted gross betting receipts.
Operators would need to apply for and receive a license from the Montana Department of Justice Gambling Control Division.
The bill, if passed, would go into effect June 2020, which would give Montana time to finalize the regulations and for bars to install and test the sports gambling machines. It will also give the Gambling Control Division time to train staff.
Bettors could wager on professional, collegiate, or Olympic sports. Betting may be done on mobile devices as long as the bettor is inside one of the licensed premises as laid out in the bill.
No one spoke against the bill at the hearing, but there were a few concerns raised about the geolocation technology that will be used.
Lobbyists want people to be able to bet wherever they are within the state, not just at licensed establishments. The lobbyists say that the tech is too expense and restrictive. On the other hand, the tavern owners, members of the Montana Tavern Association, want it kept to authorized locations. John Iverson, a member, said that keeping sports gambling in licensed bars will be good for businesses:
“If you look at the total tax on this bill to the taverns it’s not significant. If we pass this bill it will give a boost in the arm to a lot of small towns across the state of Montana.”
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