Vermont Sports Betting Bill Passes Senate, Heads Back to House
Vermont took a big step toward completing the set of New England states with legalized sports wagering. The Senate adopted changes to Vermont sports betting legislation and approved the bill by voice vote Thursday.
The Senate amended HB 127 on Wednesday and advanced it on second reading before final passage Thursday morning.
The bill heads back to the House, which can concur with the Senate changes or opt to discuss differences in a conference committee.
Either way, Vermont sports betting passage into law seems like a formality.
Senate discussion on Vermont sports betting
Senate Majority Leader Alison Clarkson laid out why Vermont should legalize and regulate sports betting.
Clarkson said creating a regulatory framework for Vermont sports wagering would:
- Reduce harm to Vermonters by creating strong consumer protections and guardrails around legal sports wagering.
- Capture lost revenue that would otherwise go to other states or offshore criminal organizations.
- Move sports wagering from the dangerous illicit market to a safe, legal and regulated market.
She compared the effort to Vermont’s legalization of cannabis.< p>Clarkson cited data from GeoComply that 16,000 Vermonters tried to access online sports wagering in neighboring states over the past six months.
“Vermonters legally betting in New York state or Massachusetts means lost revenue to Vermont,” Clarkson said. “And regulating sports wagering in Vermont keeps that revenue stream here where it is needed.”
The Vermont Legislative Joint Fiscal Office projects revenue of $2 million for the half year of FY24 and between $4.6 million and $10.6 million for the first full year FY25. In an established market, the JFO estimates annual revenue of around $10 million for Vermont sports betting.
Members of other Vermont committees presented their changes to the bill. All were adopted without objection. No Vermont senators spoke in opposition to HB 127.
Vermont sports betting changes made by Senate
Essentially four Senate committees changed the Vermont sports betting bill passed by the House. The Economic Development, Finance and Appropriations committees offered amendments on the bill. Then members of the Judiciary Committee made a proposal on the Senate floor.
Collectively, the Senate changes include:
- Altering the fee structure to bring in more money per operator, spread over multiple years.
- Eliminating a cap on advertising, allowing the Department of Liquor and Lottery (DLL) to negotiate that with operators.
- Banning advertising on college campuses.
- Prohibiting advertising on products marketed to those under the age 21.
- Requiring operators to submit an advertising plan as part of their application and contract with the DLL.
- Adjusting revenue to the problem gambling fund.
- Establishing a penalty for sportsbooks operating illegally in Vermont.
Vermont sports betting details
The Vermont sports betting bill authorizes sportsbooks to operate online only. The Department of Liquor and Lottery would issue a request for proposal (RFP) and choose operators based on a competitive bidding process.
Additional details of HB 127 include:
- Instructs the DLL to choose between 2 and 6 operators.
- Each operator must share at least 20% of the revenue with the state. The DLL can negotiate a higher number.
- Creates an initial $550,000 fee per operator over a minimum of three years. The DLL can opt for a longer initial contract during negotiations.
- Prohibits gambling on in-state college teams, except in tournaments such as March Madness.
- Sets a minimum age of 21 to participate in online sports betting.
- Prohibits placing bets with credit cards.
- Establishes a problem gambling program in the Department of Health funded by 5% of sports wagering tax revenue.
- The Department of Health must submit an annual report on problem gambling and the impacts of sports wagering to the legislature each Jan. 15.
- Requires operators annually submit a responsible gaming plan to the DLL and the Department of Mental Health.
- Prohibits promotions or bonuses being described as “risk-free.”
Sponsor says House likely to concur
Rep. Matt Birong sponsored HB 127.
Birong previously told Playin USA he expected the House to concur with any Senate changes.
The Senate ended up making quite a few changes, and Birong said he hasn’t reviewed all of them. But said he doesn’t think the Senate changes will be a major issue.
“At this moment, we hope to concur,” Birong said Wednesday.
Gov. Phil Scott is waiting to sign the bill. He already included Vermont sports betting revenue in his executive budget.
Timeline for Vermont sports betting launch
If all goes right, Vermonters can ring in the new year with a legal sports betting option within the state.
Clarkson laid out a timeline for Vermont sports betting moving forward:
- May: Governor signs sports betting bill into law.
- July: RFPs issued to operators and posted to the DLL website.
- August: Sportsbook operators submit bids.
- September: The DLL selects bidders.
- October-December: DLL commissioner negotiates and executes the contracts.
- January: Vermont sports betting launches.
“The hope is that it will go live in January and then we’ll have a full year of revenue to see it in action.”