Legislators discuss bill to legalise sports betting in Montana

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Members of a legislative committee discussed a bill to legalise betting on college and professional sporting events in Montana. The bill proposes to allow betting in bars with full liquor licenses.

The bill is proposed by Republican Sen. Mark Blasdel of Kalispell after the 2018 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that allows states to legalise sports gambling.

Supporters told the Montana Senate Business, Labour and Economic Affairs committee that passing the bill would allow the state to legalise, regulate, and tax activity that is already happening.

The computerised wagering would be run by sportsbook companies that install equipment in bars. The bill calls for bars to receive 5 per cent of the net sportsbook income derived from the premises while operators would pay an 8.5 per cent state tax on adjusted gross betting receipts.

The committee did not vote on the bill which was drafted in consultation with the state Department of Justice, companies that provide gambling machines to casinos, and the Montana Tavern Association.

If passed, it would not take effect until June 2020, giving the state time to write rules and taverns time to install and test machines, Blaisdel said.

If problems arise, Blaisdel said, the Legislature would be back in session in six months and could address them.