With live sports betting by the end of 2019 still squarely in its sites, the Montana Lottery on Monday heard from a handful of stakeholders at a public hearing about its sports betting regulations — and at least one threatened a lawsuit if the rules aren’t revised. The written public-comment period ends on Nov. 4.
A representative from a group called Arete spoke in opposition of the regulations, and the legalization of sports betting via the Lottery as a whole. According to the Helena Independent Record, Lyndon Scheveck, representing the investment group Arete, said his group would sue if the rules weren’t changed to omit the requirement of having of liquor license in addition to a gaming license.
“Not once in that bill does it state that you need a liquor license,” Scheveck told the Independent Record. “They’re trying to add a requirement that wasn’t even in the bill.”
Types of bets allowed unclear
It’s also possible that the Gaming Industry Association of Montana may be considering a lawsuit, according to a source. Neil Peterson, representing the organization, was somewhat neutral on the regulations, though he did raise the question of what types of bets would be allowed as the rules don’t clearly define this.
GIAM’s overall reaction isn’t surprising, as the Lottery sports betting bill was one of two that made it to Governor Steve Bullock’s desk. The other bill, SB 330 sponsored by Senate President Mark Blasdel, was a commercial bill that would have allowed for more open competition among potential operators.
At the time Bullock vetoed the commercial bill, he said he felt that legal sports betting via the lottery was the most “conservative” way for the Big Sky State to dip its toes into sports betting.
“Montana needs to enter the sports wagering market conservatively — adopting only one of the two models now,” Bullock said in May. “If, in two years, the market can tolerate more entrants, then I fully expect the legislature will revisit whether a second model is prudent for our state.”
Montana’s legislature meets only in odd-numbered years.
The @montanalottery is taking public input on the draft rules establishing a sports betting system for the state. Leaders say they're still on track to roll out the program by the end of the year. https://t.co/EX4FEb0d6f #MTNews #MTPol
— Jonathon Ambarian (@JSAmbarian) October 29, 2019
As it stands, the Montana Lottery is moving forward with a single-source process, and is poised to award the sports betting contract to current Lottery vendor Intralot. Lawmakers have voiced their concern at forgoing the bid process, but to date, no Request for Proposal has been issued and the Lottery has been clear in saying that it believes it’s well within its rights to award the contract to Intralot.
No-bid process reminiscent of D.C.
In a similar situation, Washington, D.C.’s Council and Lottery awarded its sports betting contract to Intralot with a no-bid process earlier this year. The Council was deeply split on whether or not to issue an RFP, and hearings were contentious. In addition, a local app developer sued D.C. for skipping the bid process, but a Superior Court judge ruled in favor of the District earlier this month.
The hearing in Montana on Monday was relatively short, and only John Iverson from the Montana Tavern Association spoke in support of the regulations, saying that he and his group, which lobbied for sports betting, believe that the proposed regulations follow the intent of the legislation. The goal, from the Tavern Association’s perspective, has been to bring patrons into its establishments, and allow them to bet on sports while spending on food-and-beverage items. Rhonda Whiggers of the Montana Coin Operators Association spoke in opposition of the rules, but seemed resigned to the legalization and eventual launch of sports betting.
The Lottery published its proposed regulations Oct. 4. The Montana Lottery estimates there could be as many at 1,400 kiosks throughout the state. The current law does not allow for mobile sports betting, though patrons standing within range of a lottery terminal will be able to bet on their mobile devices rather than at the terminal. It’s likely tavern owners are hoping patrons will be able to use their mobile devices from their barstools or tables. Remote registration will also be available.
The Montana Lottery expects to vote on the proposed rules at its Nov. 21 meeting.