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Legal and a long wait: It could be a while before Montana gamblers can bet on sports. (Image: Missoulian)
Earlier this year, Gov. Steve Bullock signed legislation approving sports wagering in the Big Sky State, becoming the ninth state to do so at the time. There was speculation that it could be operational by the end of 2019.
Even with news of the lottery commission approving the draft rules, which are slated to be published on Dec. 6, there still isn’t a clear time frame for exactly when gamblers will be able to place sports bets in the state.
The rules signed off on by the commission include allowing as many 1,400 businesses across the state, mostly bars, restaurants, taverns and other liquor license holders to accept sports wagers.
We have been working since early May to bring the product to the Montana marketplace,” said the commission. “We are excited to roll out Sports Bet Montana – but first, we have just a little bit more work to do before we are ready to begin accepting licenses from sales agents to begin offering Sports Bet Montana.”
Montana Lottery, which authored the rules, says the licensing system is designed to mirror the liquor permit plan already in place to ensure sports betting locations are spread throughout the state and not heavily concentrated in just a few areas.
Important Time Frame
Once the commission publishes the rules on Dec. 6, it can begin taking license applications. Along with not forecasting when bettors will be able to place sports wagers in Montana, the state lottery isn’t offering much in the way of details on expected volume of applications or how long the approval process will take.
The commission also hasn’t commented on the fees associated with sports betting permits.
In Montana, new establishments structured as sole proprietorships looking to serve beer, wine and spirits while offering some form of wagering pay an $800 gambling license fee, a $400 adult beverage payment, and seating emoluments ranging from $5,000 to $20,000, depending on the size of the venue, according to the state Department of Revenue.
To this point, Montana has missed out on college football and the NFL regular season by not having sports betting operational. The Super Bowl, one of the most heavily wagered sporting events in the US, falls on Feb. 2, 2020, and it looks like that will be a stretch for Big Sky State to be ready.
Initially, Montana won’t offer mobile and online betting in the traditional sense of being able to place wagers from any location within the state.
Bettors that want to use a mobile device or go online to make wagers in the state have to do so from one of the authorized locations with state-sanctioned terminals.
“We will also have a website and app where players can look at upcoming games, see lines, stats and other information unique to sports wagering,” according to Montana Lottery. “Players can use our website and app wherever they are, but they won’t be able to place a bet through the app unless they are in a location with a terminal and their app is communicating directly to our system through our sports wagering equipment.”