Montana launches legal sports betting, making them them latest state to allow legal sports bets.

Beginning last Wednesday, regulated sports betting is up and running throughout Montana – making the Big Sky State the 16th to join Nevada in that regard since a federal ban ended in 2018.

The Sports Betting Montana platform – overseen by the Montana Lottery and operated by Greek firm Intralot – was installed at over 100 licensed locations throughout the state.

The current allotment of 180 licensed sports betting locations – which include gas station “mini-casinos,” bars, taverns, and restaurants – is expected to be outfitted with Sports Betting Montana technology by this Sunday.

Under the new law, bettors can visit licensed locations to place wagers via onsite terminals. They can also use an online / mobile app, but only when physically located within a licensed location.

guys sports betting in restaurant

Montana residents can place bets at one of 180 allocated sports betting spots.

From Passage to Launch in Less Than a Year

Montana launches sports betting, joining Michigan in launching regulated sports wagering on Wednesday, while Illinois began accepting its first legal bets two days prior.

The Montana Legislature passed a pair of sports betting bills back in April of last year, with one calling for a traditional marketplace consisting of multiple competitors, and another proposing a single-operator monopoly via the state lottery. Governor Steve Bullock ultimately decided to veto the multiple operator bill in favor of letting the lotto maintain full control over sports betting in the state.

In a statement, Montana Lottery communications manager Jennifer McKee celebrated the state’s prompt rollout:

“It is a culmination of a lot of work since the legislation passed back in May. We have been working hard to build a new program and new product in Montana.

We’ve heard from a lot of people along the way about the kind of sports they want as betting, (what) kind of experience they want, we put all of that into Sports Bet Montana.”

And when asked by the Helena Independent Record about the unique model in which sports betting is offered at bars and restaurants, McKee pointed to Montana’s lack of population density:

“One of the unique things about Montana is that it’s not destination gaming.

It’s meant to be used by Montanans wherever they are. You go to your favorite sports bar and you can place a bet.

We’re rural and we’re very big and we don’t have any professional teams, so designing a product that would work for everyone no matter where they were, that was one of the challenges.”

We’ve heard from a lot of people along the way about the kind of sports they want as betting, (what) kind of experience they want, we put all of that into Sports Bet Montana.” says Montana Lottery communications manager, Jennifer McKee

Limited Lineup and Intralot’s Hefty Prices Mar Opening Week

Unfortunately for local bettors interested in using Sports Betting Montana, the platform has a severely limited set of sports on tap in light of the recent coronavirus developments. With the ongoing outbreak forcing major leagues like the NCAA, NBA, NHL, and MLB to suspend their seasons, the current lineup is largely comprised of lower-tier boxing bouts.

Asked about the Lottery’s concerns over launching into a barren sports landscape McKee predicted that Sports Betting Montana will thrive once leagues have returned to action:

“We know that this is a product that people will like, and it will pick back up when sporting picks back up.”

Before the leagues went dark, however, local bettors took to social media and cried foul over Intralot’s use of betting lines and “vig” that are out of sync with industry standards. In one particularly perturbed post by “Richie B.” on Twitter, the bettor held Intralot’s feet to the proverbial fire:

“Hey Montana, is this for real? Clueless, embarrassing, disgraceful, disgusting, a sham, and a scam.”

In a screenshot attached to the same post, Intralot offered point spread bets with vig as high as (-147) rather than the typical (-110) price. In other words, a bettor who cashes a winning $100 ticket at (-147) would only win $68 in profit instead of $90.90 at (-110).

Montana Senate President Mark Blasdel (R-4), who sponsored the multiple operator bill Bullock shot down, previously told colleagues that a lotto-exclusive model would be prone to such problems:

“If the lottery version is the only game in town, people who aren’t satisfied with that product will have nowhere else to turn.

With both models in place, the sports bettor will have more options to choose from and it will keep the odds more in check.”

A sports bettor is a different type of gambler. They look at the odds, and if the odds are not realistic then they’ll search for other avenues to place their bets.”

Jonathan Zaun

One of Gamble Online's first dedicated reporters, Jonathan has spent well over a decade reporting on the gaming industry. While breaking legal news is his main area of expertise, Jonathan is an avid blackjack player & strategist who follows professional poker closely.

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