NewsMontana and Regional News


"Sports Bet Montana" is coming soon

The Lottery has been working toward launching sports betting since May
Posted at 3:46 PM, Nov 21, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-21 18:06:06-05

GREAT FALLS — The Montana Lottery on Thursday that Sports Bet Montana will be the name of its new sports wagering product.

The news came at a regularly-scheduled meeting of the Montana Lottery Commission in Helena, which also approved the official rules governing parts of the Lottery’s sports wagering product.

The Montana Lottery expects to begin accepting applications by the end of the year from sales agents who want to offer Sports Bet Montana.

"We’ve been working hard since May to create and build Sports Bet Montana,” said Lottery director Angela Wong said in a press release.

Bettors will have to gamble within establishments that have machines selling lottery tickets already — usually found in taverns or bars.

Jennifer McKee, Montana Lottery communication manager, told MTN News in May 2019: “What that means for Montana is you won’t be seeing sports wagering at every grocery store and gas station that currently sells Montana Lottery. It will be only locations get a sports wagering license, and it will only [be] in locations where it makes sense."

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. Even athletes competing in sports like golf or rodeo are prohibited.

It's estimated that sports betting will raise $1.5 to $2 million in revenue for the state’s general fund and another $3 to $4 million for a school scholarship fund for science and technology learning.

The Lottery has been working toward launching sports betting since May, when a bill bringing sports wagering to Montana and placing it with the Lottery was signed into law. Part of the work of launching the new product involved drafting official state rules detailing how parts of the new product would be administered.

Under Montana law, the rules must go through a process designed to ensure the public has a voice in drafting the rules.

The process passed a major milestone on Thursday when the commission approved the rules. The rules must now be published in the Montana Administrative Register.

(JULY 11, 2019, reported by Mike Dennison) Sports betting in Montana could be underway by the end of the year, state Lottery officials said Thursday — although gambling-industry lobbies in Montana urged a slower path, saying the Lottery should rebid its contract to operate the new activity.

“You’re awarding a contract that’s worth $4.5 million to $6.1 million over the next four years, each year, to a company on a no-bid contract,” said Neil Peterson of the Gaming Industry Association of Montana. “I’m hearing rumblings within the industry that should the (Lottery) Commission go ahead and do a no-bid contract … that you could have some litigation over that.”

The 2019 Montana Legislature legalized sports betting in Montana and placed it under control of the state Lottery. Gov. Steve Bullock also vetoed a bill that would have allowed other private vendors to offer sports wagering.

The Lottery has said it plans to use its existing contractor, Intralot, to operate sports wagering in the state.

Intralot has a seven-year contract with the Lottery that it signed in 2015, and the contract allows for the company to offer sports betting, Lottery officials said.

At a meeting of the state Lottery Commission Thursday, Lottery staff presented 18 pages of draft rules on sports betting, defining things such as licensing of betting sites and who can play.

Intralot would run the kiosks that offer sports-betting. The kiosks would be at locations already licensed for gambling, such as bars and casinos.

Lottery staff said they’ll soon schedule public hearings on the final rules, and that they hope to have the process completed by the end of the year.

“The current contract is in place and forward-looking and provides for sports wagering, and it’s our intention to work with our current vendor,” said Angela Wong, the state lottery director. “We’re having legal review that again. We recognize that we are in the very early stages of our public process.”

Lobbyists for the gambling industry said its members should get a chance to bid on the contract.

“These companies have more experience in the United States sports-betting market than Intralot does, and we feel that in order to obtain the best provider for Montana, the lottery needs to go through the full (bid) process,” said Ronda Wiggers of the Montana Coin Machine Operators Association.

Commission members, who would decide on any contract change, gave no indication that they would change course at this point.

Commission Chair Wilbur Rehmann said he hopes the rules also address a seedier side of sports wagering: Point-shaving by athletes.

“I just want to make sure we’re looking at the possibility of the impact on high school students, college students, in terms of playing sports,” he said. “The lure is so great for the cash involved in sports betting. Point-shaving, in my mind, it’s really the evil underflow of this whole sports wagering — not adults out wanting to bet on a game.”

Wong said the Lottery plans on reaching out to colleges and other schools about possible effects on athletes.