After 87 legislative days that ended April 20, Montana Senator Mark Blasdel is back to his everyday life as a caterer. But he’ll have to interrupt serving up canapes to do just a little bit more lobbying.
The Montana State Legislature overwhelmingly passed Blasdel’s sports betting bills in the waning days of the session, only to watch Governor Steve Bullock veto it in favor of a bill that puts the state lottery in charge. But all isn’t lost for Blasdel’s measure. Under Montana law, any bill that passes the state legislature by two-thirds as SB 330 did, is automatically up for a veto override. And last Friday, the veto-override process started. If two-thirds of the members of both the state senate and house approve the bill, it becomes law.
“I have not seen one pass in seven sessions,” Blasedel told Sports Handle. “I’ll reach out to a few people. I’d like to get to some of the people who are just typically anti-gambling to explain it to them, and maybe get a couple.”
Veto override done by mail ballot
Since the session has adjourned, a veto override is done through the mail in Montana. In other states, there is often a period during which lawmakers come back into session to consider vetoed bills. For example, in Illinois there is a two-week session in November referred to as the “veto session.” Montana has no such practice in place, so lawmakers, who have already gone back to the everyday lives as businessmen, ranchers, or farmers, get veto override ballots via mail and have 30 days to respond.
Looks like Montana may try to override the Governor's veto on SB330. Never a dull moment when a legislature is in session.
— Steve Brubaker (@SteveBrubaker) May 13, 2019
Blasedel’s bill passed through both chambers with well above the required two-thirds votes. The House voted, 36-14, to pass it on April 1, and the Senate passed it, 33-17, on April 18. With those numbers, it would seem that an override is a slam dunk, but Blasedel says, not so fast.
“A challenge in Montana is that a number of legislators won’t return the ballot,” Blasdel said.
An unreturned ballot counts as a “no” vote, so getting enough lawmakers to reply is critical, and likely explains why veto overrides have not been successful in the past.
Be that as it may, Blasdel entered the session enthusiastic about his bill, which would allow for a more open, competitive marketplace than the new lottery sports betting law. SB 330 was one of three Montana sports betting bills that were introduced this session. Only two made it to the governor’s desk — a pari-mutuel sports betting bill died in the Senate. Bullock signed HB 725, the lottery sports betting bill, on May 3. He vetoed SB 330 the same day.
Under any of the proposals, sports betting would take place via kiosks placed at approved locations throughout the state, and no casinos or stand-alone sportsbooks would be built. Should the veto get overturned, Montana bettors could find two kiosks offering different bets and different odds/prices/markets at approved locations.