Montana Senator Faces Short Deadline to Pass Sports Betting Bill in Current Legislative Session

Posted on: March 26, 2019, 09:49h. 

Last updated on: March 26, 2019, 09:49h.

This week stands as a big one for a Montana lawmaker shepherding a bill that would allow sports betting in Big Sky Country.

Montana state Sen. Mark Blasdel discusses his sports betting bill with the Senate Business, Labor, and Economic Affairs Committee last week. According to state law, the bill must pass the Senate by April 1 so the House can consider it. The legislative session ends on May 1. (Image:

State Sen. Mark Blasdel (R-Kalispell) faces an April 1 deadline to get his bill, SB 330, out of the Senate. Last week, the Senate Business, Labor, and Economic Affairs Committee passed the bill by an 8-2 margin. This week, the Senate Finance and Claims Committee must review the bill before it goes to the full body for two readings. The last reading must happen no later than Monday.

Despite the time crunch, Blasdel remains optimistic about the bill’s chances. The finance hearing should take place either on Wednesday or Thursday morning.

“There’s still time to get it done,” he told

Two Bills on the Table

Although it was technically one of four states grandfathered in to allow sports betting when Congress passed the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA)in 1992, Montana’s history with sports wagering to date has been limited to pool betting.

According to Blasdel’s bill, the state’s Department of Justice would retain authority over sports betting. His bill resembles Delaware’s regulations, in that it allows established venues like casinos and bars, to set up sports bet kiosks where patrons 18 and older can buy tickets.

The bill does permit mobile applications. However, bettors can only bet online within the premises of a licensed sports betting location in the state.

The way it’s set up right now, you’d have to go in and set up your account before at a licensed place,” he said. “It’s also built as a driver for the local taverns and bars and casinos.”

The fiscal note tied to the bill anticipates permitting 300 kiosks across the state, with each kiosk requiring a $100 annual fee for operation. Two sportsbook operators and two platform operators would pay an annual license fee of $1,000 apiece. Up to 10 “associated gambling businesses,” which include companies that offer equipment to run sports betting operations, would pay $100 each in annual fees.

If enacted, the bill would take effect in June 2020. Based on Delaware’s participation data, the bill estimates the average Montana adult would bet $140 in 2021.

With an 8.5 percent tax on betting receipts, Blasdel’s bill estimates the state would receive roughly $2 million in each of the first three years.

Blasdel’s bill isn’t the only one in the state legislature. State Rep. Ryan Lynch (D-Butte) authored a bill, HB 725, that would give sports betting oversight to the state lottery. That bill will go before the House Business and Labor Committee on Tuesday.

Montana’s 90-day legislative session ends on May 1.

Partnerships Already Forming

Even though neither bill has passed, some businesses involved in Montana gaming have already established relationships to help them with sports betting.

Earlier this month, established Montana Class III video game developer and  operator Fleetwood Gaming, Inc. entered into an agreement with Rome and Toronto-based Newgioco Group, Inc.

According to Newgioco’s press release, it will provide “business intelligence and risk management solutions” if Montana legalizes sports betting.