The terminals are packed up. They’re powered up, in essence. Within days, drivers will begin delivering them to more than 150 locations throughout the state.
Get ready, Montana. Potentially within a week, legalized sports betting will kick off in Big Sky Country, courtesy of Sports Bet Montana.
“There’s a robust gambling market already in Montana,” said Jennifer McKee, communications manager for the Montana Lottery. Powered by Intralot, sports betting in the state will be overseen by the lottery.
“Mostly what we’ve heard from people is why (sports betting) isn’t already up and running. It’s almost unilateral excitement and people really want it to be out right now.”
Fear not, Treasure Staters: Sports Bet Montana is in its final stages of preparation. And just in time for March Madness.
Sports betting terminals ready for delivery in Montana
After some delays, Montana sports betting is about to kick into overdrive.
Within the past few weeks, the Montana Lottery Commission approved bet types and sports, the lottery installed “communication beacons” at locations that will house betting terminals, and the lottery readied said terminals for delivery, which begins March 9.
Theoretically, within two weeks, Montana sports betting could be operational.
“The limiting factor for us is just the size of the state of Montana,” McKee said. “We’re going to be delivering equipment as quickly as possible and getting as many installed as possible.”
Not only does Montana’s size affect the speed at which the lottery can fulfill deliveries, so, too, does the over 150 locations that have signed up to host betting terminals.
Hope is for little lag time after deliveries
As McKee emphasized, the betting terminals will already be functioning before the lottery even delivers them.
“But because this is a completely new activity,” she added, “they’ll be delivered and very soon after that there will be a lottery crew training on how the equipment works.”
Once again citing the sheer size of Montana (it is the fourth-largest by area in the US), as well as the number of locations expecting deliveries, McKee could not provide a built-in timeline for when sports betting will launch. But the anticipation, she said, is “very soon.”
“We didn’t want to do an all-at-once launch, just because of the geographic concerns,” McKee said. “It can take so long, we didn’t want to have dark terminals.”
What Montana sports betting will offer
The upside for bettors: Montana will accept wagers on professional and college sports. On top of that, Montana university athletics are also in play.
From basketball to baseball, football to hockey, soccer to tennis, golf to boxing, and MMA to motor sports, Sports Bet Montana will have a decent variety of betting offerings.
That said, the lottery has instituted betting limits for those placing wagers both at kiosks and via the Sports Bet Montana app and website.
Gamblers at terminals cannot bet more than $250, while mobile wagers will be capped at $1,000. This is part of the lottery’s ongoing pursuit to “contribute to the common good” of Montana gaming, as McKee put it. With these limits, sports betting operates under a more controlled environment.
So, too, is the lottery’s decision pertaining to mobile wagering.
Montana sports betting goes mobile… kind of
In a sense, Montana will offer online sports betting via the Sports Bet Montana app and website.
But bettors will only have access to these mobile options within establishments that house betting terminals. These sites feature “communication beacons” that interact with the Sports Bet Montana app and website.
At the door of each location, however, exists “null-beacons” that prevent the signal from getting outside.
Already, McKee said, more than 70 locations have been outfitted with communication beacons.
Pending lawsuit will not delay Montana sports betting
Several months after HB 725 passed to legalize sports betting in the state, the Montana Lottery included an addendum that required businesses to possess a specific alcohol license in order to be qualified to offer regulated wagering.
As the legislature didn’t initially require such a stipulation, a lawsuit was filed against the lottery. Not only did the plaintiff request it be awarded a sports wagering license despite not owning an alcohol license, it also asked for the court to issue a restraining order until a ruling is made.
While McKee could not comment on the lawsuit, as it remains pending, the request for an injunction was denied.
Despite the pending lawsuit, Montana sports betting chugs along.
What kind of future does Montana sports betting have?
Excitement abounds for regulated wagering in the Treasure State, at least from McKee’s perspective — and not only from businesses that will house terminals, but also from the public.
Even the state’s colleges have expressed support, according to McKee. (Interview requests to several universities either went unreturned or were denied.)
“We’ve worked with the Commissioner of Higher Education here,” McKee said. “Part of our system is colleges and universities have their own standards for who can and who can’t bet. So what we’ve done to help them, and to help anyone who wants assistance with not gambling, is you can go into our system and put yourself on a self-exclusion list.”
McKee noted that several athletic directors in the state raised “very legitimate questions” about how the Montana Lottery would be able to control sports betting. Already, the lottery has displayed the controlled environment it has created: betting terminals at select locations, communication beacons to allow for mobile wagering within these establishments, and limits on how much bettors can wager.
While over 150 businesses are licensed to host betting terminals, upwards of 1,400 locations are eligible to offer regulated sports betting. That, combined with Montana’s hunger for gambling, should make the state’s sports betting industry relatively successful, per McKee.
“From our perspective as the lottery,” she said, “we’re really focused on putting out a product that people will really enjoy and make it successful.”