Is Sports Betting Legal in Montana?
Montana was one of four states grandfathered into the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act. PASPA was the act signed into law in 1992 that outlawed sports betting, but Montana was one of four states, along with Nevada, Oregon, and Delaware to continue doing what it was doing. In Montana, that was sports pools in bars and establishments and a couple of sports betting-related contests through the lottery.
Now that PASPA has been struck down, progress on expanded sports betting in Montana is slow. Like most states, the legislature is out of session until 2019, so few things related to sports betting were discussed on the floor of the state house before meetings adjourned for the year.
One of the problems here is that a lot of other states don’t is that there is an expanse of territory within the borders of Montana, but the population is among the lowest in the nation. Montana ranked 44th in population as of last year. A small population obviously didn’t stop Delaware, another state grandfathered into PASPA, but the population is far more centralized in such a small state. Most of Montana’s big cities are connected by the I-94/90 corridor, but casinos in the state are extremely spread out. Will betting offer up enough revenue to make it worth the state’s while? That will be a discussion for lawmakers next year.
Montana is in a unique position in that most of the bordering states aren’t really in a hurry to adopt anything or are simply too far of a drive, so money would come in and stay in. On the other hand, money wouldn’t leave en masse for states with legalized sports betting, which would be the case in so many others. One wrinkle that most states don’t have, however, is that sports pools are already allowed in bars. Where most states will legalize gambling at race tracks or casinos, Montana could allow it in bars via kiosks or other apps.
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From the Flathead Beacon on May 18, nothing is imminent in Montana, with the legislature in recess until next year, but it doesn’t seem like there is a whole lot of urgency anyway.
Per the Independent Record in the capital of Helena, studies about Montana have shown that the state would not see big revenues from sports betting. A lot of states have commissioned studies to see what the pros and cons would be and whether or not the state’s low population makes this a worthwhile endeavor.
With a lot of states, we already have a pretty good idea of what the outcome will be. In Montana, we really don’t, although, if we set a line for sports betting by 2023, the no might actually be a slight favorite. The fact that bars and restaurants could have a say may be the saving grace. Otherwise, Montana would probably not even consider it at all.