Bill Puts Details To Potential Legal Vermont Sports Betting
Green Mountain State could no longer be like the kid at school who forgot their signed permission slip for the field trip. A bill that would legalize Vermont sports betting is circulating in Montpelier, specifying many details of what a regulated system for the activity could look like in the state.
Should it become law, Vermonters would no longer have to cross state lines to place legal bets. How quickly that could happen and what changes might occur along the way are uncertain right now, though.
Vermont sports betting legalization progresses
Legislators in Vermont have been working on this for years already. Late last month, a committee generated a report recommending a regulated system for betting on sporting events in the state. That was the result of hearings and research into the ramifications of doing so on Vermont’s businesses and citizens.
Currently, online sports betting is legal in all three states that border Vermont. It’s still pending launch in Massachusetts, though, as only physical sportsbooks at Massachusetts casinos are taking legal bets for the time being.
The enti re state legislature is beholding the fruits of the labor of preparation in H.127. Rep. Matthew Birong gets primary credit for introducing the bill but the legislation has nine co-sponsors in the Vermont House of Representatives.
The bill is awaiting action in the House’s Committee on Government Operations and Military Affairs. Birong is the vice-chair of that committee and three other co-sponsors of the bill sit on that committee as well. For that reason, approval from the Committee seems a foregone conclusion.
Currently, the Committee plans to consider the bill on the afternoon of Feb. 2. There is no companion legislation in the Vermont Senate and it’s unclear how much support H.127 would receive in the full House as currently composed. That will mostly depend on the bill’s details.
What’s in H.127?
The bill would place the Vermont Dept. of Liquor and Lottery in charge of regulating online sports betting in the state. It includes no provisions for any physical sportsbooks in Vermont in keeping with the complete lack of gambling facilities in the state.
The Department could license as many as six online operators with a minimum of two. Like with its neighbor New Hampshire, the minimum age for sports betting in Vermont would be 18. The bill does not include any language referring to official data mandates and would allow gambling on collegiate sporting events.
Licenses would cost $275,000 each and be renewable annually for the same fee. The bill has no language governing several other pertinent topics, like:
- Whether bets on esports are permissible
- Whether operators can deduct their promotional spending from taxable revenue
- What the tax rate will be for sportsbooks’ revenue
More guidance on those topics could be forthcoming in future amendments to the bill. Failing that, it would be up to the Dept. of Liquor and Lottery to determine the regulatory process. The bill does have an extensive section devoted to responsible gambling, however.
Birong emphasizes responsible gambling resources
According to Calvin Cutler of WCAX, Birong wants to use sports betting revenue to support resources for Vermonters dealing with pathological gambling issues.
“The conversation around sports wagering is similar to that of cannabis,” Birong said. “Get it out of the dark markets, provide support for people, consumer protection, [and] capture the revenue.”
The bill earmarks at least $250,000 on an annual basis for a Responsible Gaming Special Fund. That amount could be more, however, as the bill specifies that 2.5% of the state’s tax would go toward that fund.
The bill also directs the Vermont Dept. of Mental Health to use those resources to provide support like a free helpline with online chat and text messaging capabilities. Furthermore, the Dept. of Mental Health would create programs to certify practitioners in treating people with compulsive gambling issues.
Although it’s unclear how soon the Vermont House could vote on the bill and what its fate would be in the Vermont Senate, Gov. Phil Scott has communicated support for legal sports betting. The big question is whether this bill will reach his desk.