What Would Montana Have To Do To Fully Legalize Sports Betting?
Montana, Montana, Montana. What can we say about Montana? The Treasure State is in a very different situation than most states when it comes to legalizing sports betting. This is in part due to the fact that they’ve already successfully been running a form of sports betting since 1973. This is thanks to the Card Game, Bingo, Raffles, and Sports Pool Act being passed.
So when the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act was passed in 1992, Montana continued on as if nothing else had happened, due to the grandfather clause. Now, 26 years later, the Supreme Court has rectified Congress’s mistake from so long ago, striking down PASPA and giving states back their right to choose. Again, Montana has continued on as if nothing happened.
That’s not to say that they will always have this devil may care attitude. It just means that it’s not a priority. And why would it be? Montana has been successfully running gambling at a level that can be sustained and profitable for both businesses and the government. There’s no guarantee that sports betting in any expanded capacity would benefit either party in this situation, so lawmakers have decided that they’re going to take a much more laid-back approach to the issue than other states.
Montana’s legislature would have to amend parts of both the penal code and the civil statutes in the state in order to allow expanded sports betting in the state. That would mean passing a bill through the House and Senate and then receiving the Governor’s signature on said bill. Montana’s legislature meets for 90 days every two years, and their next meeting is not until 2019.
So any changes to the current sports betting laws in the state are a long way away. Montana lawmakers will more than likely get around to adding sports betting in the state, but don’t count on it being pushed through as quickly as some of the more desperate states, like New Jersey or Delaware. This is an issue that is going to take time because Montana has so many different problems to deal with.
The state is large, yes, but the population is relatively small in comparison. Most people own ranches or are on a few dozen acres of land, spread out all across Big Sky country. This widespread, rural community format does not lend itself to opening sportsbooks in a singular location like Delaware has done with its three casinos.
Montana does have racetracks throughout the state, and a number of taverns that offer the current NFL sports pool as well. But those establishments are small businesses, and there’s no way of knowing whether there will be enough revenue coming into each location to cover large wagers. This leads to one of two undesirable situations – either the business is forced to cover the large payout and enters into financial difficulty, or the establishment limits wagering to the point that it’s essentially like the pool because payouts are so small. Neither is really appealing, is it?
There is also the question of whether or not Montana will allow online sports betting. Montana is one of a handful of states that have banned daily fantasy sports because lawmakers want to keep residents and visitors spending their money at local establishments. Online sports betting, if run through a Montana based establishment, could keep the cash in-state.
Online sports betting will have to be geo-fenced, to make sure that nothing violates the Wire Act, a federal law preventing sports betting from crossing state lines. It will also need to have a legitimate age verification system, not just “enter your date of birth here”. Most states offering online sports betting are requiring players to set up their accounts at a physical location – Montana lawmakers will more than likely consider an option like this if they do choose to legalize online gambling.
Due to the unique situation that the state finds itself in, legal sports betting in Montana may not make it through the 2019 legislature. That would mean a bill to legalize sports betting wouldn’t be back up on the docket until 2021, the next time the legislature meets. So what are Montana residents supposed to do in the meantime?
Online, offshore sportsbooks are still a viable option for residents of the Treasure State. These legal sports betting sites provide a safe platform from the comfort of your home computer or mobile device. All you need to do is create an account, make a deposit, and you’ll be ready to go. Most reputable sites like Bovada and BetOnline even offer bonuses for making deposits, allowing you to increase the funds you play with. Montana is going to take its time to legalize sports betting, so while you’re waiting, you might as well enjoy your downtime and maybe win a few bucks.
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