More Choice for Montana Sports Bettors

Sports betting customers in the US state of Montana may be in line for an increase in the range of sports betting options following a legal ruling. 

A rule that had been introduced following legalization in the state, which limited the locations where sports betting could be provided, was overturned in a district court earlier this month, although it is not yet clear whether the new ruling will prevail. 

The requirement stated that sports betting was only permissible at establishments that also had an alcohol license, but the Lewis and Clark County District Court ruled that this had not been the intention of the original Montana Sports Betting rules. In response, the Montana Lottery, which regulates the state’s sports betting platform run by Intralot, have not yet given their response. 

Lawsuit Battle

The lawsuit that triggered the case was brought by the Arete Group and alleged that the Montana Lottery had been wrong to link the granting of sports betting licenses solely to bars that had liquor licenses, on the basis that such a requirement was not included in the original legislation. According to reports, the Lottery was aware of a pending lawsuit last year, opted to push ahead and affirm the rules in October 2019, which prompted the lawsuit, filed in January this year. 

In drawing up the requirement, there were a number of practical reasons that the Lottery in Montana decided to make sports wagering conditional on the possession of an alcohol license. Firstly, the legislature had stipulated that the Lottery should ensure that the total number of sports betting outlets in the state was sustainable. By requiring an alcohol license before obtaining a sports betting license, they were able to cap the number of possible sports betting establishments at around 1,400. 

The rule also enabled the Lottery to ensure that no gambling establishments were within a certain distance of any school or church. The gambling laws in the state do not make such provisions, but the rules governing alcohol-selling premises do specify these minimum distancing requirements. 

Limited Market

The bigger picture in Montana, however, is of sports betting market that has been limited, both by strict retail requirements and the poor quality of odds. 

Since the lottery launched their sports betting kiosks in the middle of March, there has been a total wager figure of around $11 million bets on sports in the state. From that $11 million, gross revenue was a paltry $1.4 million, which compares unfavorably with states such as Pennsylvania, where the latest figures revealed a $42 million gross profit during October alone. 

One of the reasons for the relatively low revenue is the effective absence of mobile betting. All sports betting in Montana has to be done at a licensed retail venue, and while there is a mobile sport betting app, it can only be used while the customer is at an appropriate venue. 

For those customers who do visit a betting venue, the odds are distinctly underwhelming. As Introlot is in charge of the sports betting operation, the odds available are in line with those offered by Gambet DC in the District of Columbia. Gambet’s uncompetitive odds have enabled the only other sportsbook in Washington DC, run by William Hill, to take over as the market leader. But with no legal sports betting alternative in Montana, the fear is that many sports betting customers in the state are simply choosing to bet through illegal ‘offshore’ operations. 

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