Montana Lottery working through sports-betting process; legalization worries UM athletic director

HELENA — In early May, Governor Steve Bullock signed House Bill 725 into law, legalizing sports wagering in Montana.

The Montana Lottery will operate sports wagering, which will be rolled out within 12 months — likely sooner. While no specific dates have been set, the public will likely be able to bet on the 2020 Super Bowl.

“We’re not reinventing the wheel here. We’re just following the process,” said Jennifer McKee, communications manager of the Montana Lottery. “We’re in the design phase right now of figuring out how sports wagering will look in Montana, what makes the most sense for us, and we’re moving through the steps as quickly as we can.”

There are plenty of questions yet to be answered, but here’s what we do know:

  • Sports-wagering licenses will be separate from any other Montana Lottery licenses.
  • The bets will be placed on some kind of terminals.
  • And all bets will need to be placed inside a licensed retail location.

“It will be only locations that get a sports-wagering license, and it will only be locations where it makes sense,” McKee said.

I.e., Montanans won’t be able to bet from home, meaning popular, national daily fantasy sports games like FanDuel are still off limits.

So what will they be able to bet? It will likely be the same sports and games they can bet at any large sportsbook. Montana’s sportsbook will be managed by Intralot, the Lottery’s current vendor, and it will operate as any other sportsbook.

And that worries University of Montana director of athletics Kent Haslam.

“We don’t have any pro sports in this state, so let’s face it, what are people going to be betting on that they can actually attend right here in this state, are going to be Montana, Montana State athletic contests,” Haslam said.

“We’re so early in the process that we don’t really have the details of how and what kinds of sports will necessarily be even concluded,” McKee said. “So, I guess we don’t have our concerns written in stone yet, either.”

The law is clear, though: Without exception, Montana college athletes and athletic department employees are not allowed to participate.

“It changes a student-athlete’s life when gambling is legal, and I understand you make it legal and it’s more above board, I understand it,” Haslam said. “I really hope that there will be some form of resources offered to us.”

“We don’t have a designed program today, but that’ll definitely be going into our decision-making as we move forward,” McKee said.

In the end, Haslam and McKee are on the same side: Both want responsibility and integrity.

“If there’s no integrity in that game, then why show up, why support it? Again, we’re dealing with 18- to 22-, 23-year-old young people that come from a variety of walks of life,” Haslam said. “Just one more thing that entices them, or one more thing we’ve got to pay attention to, it certainly will keep me up at night, along with all the other things.”

Haslam’s concerns aren’t the only comments the Lottery wants to hear. The public can provide feedback on the Lottery website at www.montanalottery.com.

Slim Kimmel

Slim Kimmel

Slim Kimmel is a Winnett native and has been with the MTN Sports team since 2016.
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