What is the State of Sports Betting Legalization in Montana?

As all residents of Missoula know, Montana is a great place to live. The scenery around the whole state is simply breathtaking and it has deservedly earned the nickname of ‘Big Sky Country’. Of course, the state is also home to some truly modern destinations, which bring an urban edge to the landscape. Missoula is a great example of this, with its mixture of urban life and outdoor space.

This mixture gives people around Missoula and Montana plenty of options to stay entertained in their spare time. One form of entertainment that many residents or visitors are keen to try is sports betting. With many states (such as New Jersey and Delaware) allowing sports betting within their borders, many in Montana may wonder what the picture looks like for them. But what is the current state of sports betting legislation in the state?

Sports betting in Montana

Before we look at the current sports betting situation in Montana, it is worth getting an overview of how the USA began to legalize betting on sports. The turning point was the Supreme Court’s historic ruling in 2018 to allow individual states to make sports betting legal, if they wished to do so. This opened the floodgates for states to begin offering legalized sports betting to residents and visitors.

So, where is Montana at currently? The simple answer is that fully-fledged sports betting is not legal in the state. This is naturally a bitter blow for sports bettors who live in and around Montana. Having said that, there is the opportunity to bet on horse-racing, if that is your thing. There is also a fantasy-sports type pool that is run by the state lottery – this, however, only allows betting on auto racing and football.

Online sports betting illegal in Montana

There are many great reasons to visit Montana – unfortunately online sports betting within the state is not one of them. Currently, it is not legal to gamble or place sports bets online in Montana. This situation dates back to 2005, when the state passed legislation to outlaw all forms of internet gambling. While this might seem outdated now, it was actually pretty much in line with many other states at the time. Back then, mobile gambling and placing sports bets online was not something people did.

There is, however, a massive grey area in the laws that Montana has regarding online betting. While sports betting online is officially illegal, current legislation stipulates that one is allowed to gamble at an offshore online sportsbook. As these platforms are not located in Montana and are not state controlled, they fall outside of state laws.

Will sports betting be fully legal in Montana soon?

This is the burning question for many sports bettors in Montana, particularly in terms of whether online sports betting on platforms based in the state will be made legal soon. The somewhat disappointing answer for now is that the state does not seem that interested in changing its stance. At present, there have been no firm steps or commitment from state officials to legalize sports betting.

Much of this seems to be due to a belief in the corridors of power that not many people in Montana bet on sports. This has led to state officials not being keen on making it fully legal, as they think there are not enough people living in the state to make it worthwhile. There is no doubt that sports can be big in Montana (results such as that which saw the Montana Grizzlies beat Washington recently in college ball help!). There are, however, no pro sports teams in the state for people to bet on. This therefore might mean residents could have to wait a while to enjoy fully legal sports betting.

What might change the politician’s minds?

There is no doubt that Montana has quite a complex and long history when it comes to sports betting. At present, it seems like the state is not in any rush to legalize this activity fully and is perhaps waiting to see what other states do, before acting. But what could convince local politicians to change their view?

The simple answer is that money could be the main motivation. As seen in other states that have fully legalized betting on sports, the tax revenues it can bring to state coffers are substantial. This is certainly true when considering online and mobile betting on sports, which if legalized, would give the state more money to engage in public works and to spend on its citizens. At present, any such revenue is going to offshore sportsbooks and is not benefitting Montana in any way. We may, therefore, see state officials change their stance in an attempt to keep this revenue within Montana.