Days After DC Deal, Montana Plan to Offer Intralot Sole-Source Sports Betting Contract Comes Under Fire from Industry Groups

Posted on: July 13, 2019, 11:46h. 

Last updated on: July 13, 2019, 11:49h.

For the second time in less than a week, plans for a lottery to hire Intralot to manage its sports betting operations came under heavy scrutiny.

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock signed a bill into law earlier this year that gave the state’s lottery commission oversight of sports betting. On Thursday, gaming industry groups questioned the lottery’s plan to award a sole-source contract to Intralot to run sports betting in the state. (Image: Durrelliott)

On Thursday, state gaming association leaders attended the Montana Lottery Commission meeting to question why the agency was considering giving Intralot a no-bid contract for sports betting services.

The MT Television Network reported the commission signed Intralot to a seven-year contract to oversee lottery gaming in 2015. Industry representatives pressed commission members to open the sports betting contract to other interested entities.

“You’re awarding a contract that’s worth $4.5 to $6.1 million over the next four years, each year, to a company on a no-bid contract,” Neil Peterson, the Gaming Industry Association of Montana’s executive director told the commission. “I’m hearing rumblings from within the industry that should the commission go ahead an do a no-bid contract with Intralot that you could have some litigation over that.”

Two Bills Passed, One Bill Signed

The Montana State Legislature passed two sports betting bills during its 2019 session. One sponsored by state Sen. Mark Blasdel (R-Kalispell) would have given authority to the Department of Justice to manage sports betting and allowed two sportsbooks and two platform operators to receive licenses.

However, Gov. Steve Bullock, a Democrat, vetoed Blasdel’s bill and signed one sponsored by state Rep. Ryan Lynch (D-Butte) that gave oversight to the state lottery. In his veto memo, Bullock said the state needed to enter the sports betting market cautiously and implement just one of the two proposals.

The Governor said using the state lottery’s existing infrastructure would provide a greater return to taxpayers.

By contrast, the private model could risk favoring market entrants with the most resources to advertise and promote their products,” Bullock wrote. “In that environment, competition between well-heeled, international purveyors of gambling could lead to a fragmented market with competing sportsbooks spending most of their profits on acquiring players-leaving little margin for return to the taxpayer.”

However, Bullock added that he expected state lawmakers to revisit the topic within a couple of years to determine if any changes or additions need to be made.

Questions Also in DC

Thursday’s meeting in Montana came just two days after the District of Columbia Council voted by a 7-5 margin, with one member absent, to award a $215 million, five-year contract to the Greek gaming company to manage online sports betting.

Like Montana, the DC Lottery also uses Intralot for its gaming operations. Also, like Montana, the DC contract was a sole-source award.

Critics in Washington had sought to stop the award, citing conflict of interest ties between Intralot’s subcontractors and Councilman Jack Evans, the main sponsor of the bill. Critics also questioned why District officials did not open the bidding to other gaming companies in an attempt to find a better value for taxpayers.

Attempts to reach Intralot officials for comment on both the DC and Montana contracts were unsuccessful.