On Tuesday morning, the Montana state legislature announced the results of Montana’s veto override vote on sports betting bill SB 330, and the mail vote fell short of the two-thirds threshold needed to overturn Governor Steve Bullock’s veto.
The result was not unexpected — bill sponsor and Senate President Pro Tempore Mark Blasdel (R-District 4) said last month that in seven years in the Senate he’s never seen a veto override succeed. During the session, the bill passed both the House (36-14) and Senate (33-17) easily. Whenever a bill passes both chambers by a two-thirds majority but is vetoed by the governor, a veto override poll is automatically instituted.
Blasdel’s bill was one of three that made its way through Montana’s legislature in 2019. Only one passed and got Bullock’s signature. HB 725 made the cut, and it allows for lottery-run sports betting at kiosks in approved locations. No casinos or physical sportsbooks will be built in the state. A second bill that would have allowed for pari-mutuel sports betting didn’t get to Bullock. Blasdel’s bill would have allowed for a more traditional sports betting setup with an open, competitive marketplace that operators are lobbying for across the country.
Next chance for Blasdel’s sports betting bill is 2021
The mail vote was a different result, in large part because failing to reply counts as a “no” vote. According to the Associated Press, 24 Democratic lawmakers who supported the measure in session changed their “yes” votes to “no,” while 28 who voted for the measure on their respective chamber floors failed to reply. In total, those 52 ayes-turned-nays were enough for the measure to fail.
According to KTHV, the bill got 54 “yes” votes in the House and 20 in the Senate. It needed 67 and 34, respectively, to override the veto. All 150 Montana lawmakers from both chambers received the mail poll to override the veto.
The Montana legislature meets only in odd-numbered years, so it will be 2021 before Blasdel — or any lawmaker — can bring sports betting up for a vote again.
BREAKING: With the governor's signature, Montana just became the 12th jurisdiction to legalize sports betting since #PASPA was overturned nearly one year ago. https://t.co/PkSveUHklN pic.twitter.com/xA7vhX0YU1
— American Gaming Assn (@AmerGamingAssn) May 3, 2019
Though Bullock vetoed Blasdel’s bill, Montana did become the first state in 2019 to legalize sports betting, as he did sign a sports betting bill that makes the Montana State Lottery the regulator and operator.
When Bullock vetoed Blasdel’s bill, he said he did so because he thought it wise for Montana to get into sports betting slowly, but left the door open to expand the state’s offerings in the future.
“For the market to succeed, Montana needs to enter the sports wagering market conservatively — adopting only one of the two models now,” he said in a May statement. “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.”