Update on Sports Betting in Montana

In March of 2020, retail sports betting operators in Montana were given the green light to start taking bets. Unfortunately, it was only a couple of weeks later that major sports leagues throughout the world were forced to shutdown due to concerns over the COVID19 pandemic. That left Montana sports bettors with money in their hands and nowhere to bet it.

It was not until July when the light at the end of the tunnel started shinning. That is when MLB baseball opened up its 2020 regular season with an abbreviated schedule of 60 games. The league was soon followed by top soccer leagues in Europe, the NHL, and the NBA restarting its regular season in “the bubble.”

It is noteworthy that all sports betting operations in the state are guided by the Montana lottery, using the Intralot sports betting platform as the only available option for residents. Since this is largely a monopoly operation being run by the lottery, there is only one available mobile betting app, that being Sports Bet Montana. Currently, Montana bettors do not have access to online casinos like Gclub.

As for mobile betting, the process is not the same as it is in other states (Indiana, New Jersey, Nevada, Pennsylvania, West Virginia) where mobile sports betting in permissible by law. In Montana, bettors must be located within a specified geofenced footprint of an authorized retail sports betting outlet. Only then can they pick up the signal that is necessary to make their wagers through their mobile devices.

How Montana Sports Bettors are Reacting to Bookmaker Pricing Issues

Through August of this year, retail bookmakers and Sports Bet Montana reported just over $6.0 million in betting revenue. That is a small number even taking into account the fact very few sports betting options were available until the middle of July. At issue are the conservative lines that Intralot has been posting. While most of the nation’s bookmakers are posting 10-cent to 20-cent lines, Intralot has taken advantage of its monopoly status, offering lines of up to 30-cents. In sports betting terms, that is a huge difference in the bookmaker’s favor.

None of this is being lost on astute Montana sports gamblers. Rather than try to beat bad numbers, they are choosing to stay away until more competitive options come along.

Robert Walker, director of sportsbook operations at US Bookmaking, has this to say about the situation:

“You might go to 7-Eleven to buy a gallon of milk but you’re not shopping there. That’s the analogy I would use for these guys that are killing the customers with these numbers. Eventually, they’ll stop playing there. I think it’ll be sooner rather than later, and it’d be tomorrow if somebody came in with a better product.”

Josh Swissman, founding partner of The Strategy Organization, also chimed in as follows:

“It puts a bad taste in the local bettors’ mouth to have these – noncompetitive is not even the right word ­­ these very, very conservative, one-sided wager potentials that are out there.”

Given the current state of affairs, it is safe to say legalized sports betting in Montana is falling below initial expectations. Unfortunately, the state has no one to blame but themselves.