AP NEWS

Sports wagering in Montana moving forward

October 30, 2019

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — The Montana Lottery has avoided a major obstacle in its effort to offer sports wagering by the end of the year.

An interim legislative committee that met Tuesday failed to muster enough support to delay lottery officials from finalizing draft rules that tie sports wagering licenses to liquor licenses. The rules allow sports wagering to be offered by businesses within city limits if they have all-beverage liquor licenses and those outside incorporated areas if they have beer and wine licenses.

Critics argued the legislation that legalized sports wagering in Montana did not refer to liquor licenses, but the Department of Administration said setting that requirement was within the lottery’s rule-making authority.

Republican Sen. Dee Brown of Hungry Horse moved to delay adoption of the rules.

“I think they are extensive enough that we need to look them over and make good choices,” Brown said. “We can’t do these quickly.”

The motion failed after a tie vote among House members on the State Administration and Veterans Affairs Committee.

Committee members also determined Tuesday they had no standing to challenge the lottery’s plan to add sports wagering to its lottery management contract with Intralot.

Mike Manion, legal counsel for the Montana Lottery and Sports Wagering Commission, said the state’s 2014 contract with Intralot contemplated adding games and that the legislation that legalized sports wagering defined it as a lottery game.

He said if the Legislature wanted the lottery to put out another request for proposals to manage the game, they could have included that in the bill.

“The desire of this committee at this time is to take no action and let it be as it is,” said Republican Rep. Wendy McKamey of Great Falls, the committee chairwoman, in wrapping up the discussion.

The Montana Lottery Commission is scheduled to meet on Nov. 21 to consider the rules that would allow sports wagering using a mobile application or a gaming terminal. Lottery officials have been working on the rollout since May, a spokeswoman said.

Since the U.S. Supreme Court last year ended Nevada’s monopoly on legal sports books, they’ve opened in a dozen more states. Five other states, including Montana, have approved sports betting but have not implemented it. Colorado voters will decide next month whether to allow sports betting there.