Will Montana follow other states in legalizing online casinos?

Changing attitudes to gambling in the US

The USA has transformed its relationship with gambling in the last two decades. In the not-too-distant past, people who enjoyed a flutter needed to dedicate time to travel across the country to indulge in their hobby. If you could not get to Las Vegas, and then latterly Atlantic City, you could not legally enjoy casino games. In addition, there was virtually no legal sports betting in the country. It is not that people did not bet; it is just that they could not do so legally.

A country built on lottery money

The irony is that so much of America was built on lottery revenue. Lotteries were seen as an early form of voluntary taxation. For example, The people of Philadelphia used lottery money to build defenses on the Delaware River and bridges and roads into the surrounding countryside. In the 17th and 18th America, public and private lotteries thrived. Without gambling, early America could not have been conceived. The colonies depended on people being prepared to pay a price to try their hand with lady luck.

Lotteries were a European import

The original idea of lotteries came from Europe. According to one source, the first lottery used to raise money for the Government took place in Florence, Italy, in 1530. The French and British adopted this innovative way of earning cash as well. By the 1700s, lotteries were used as a way to raise money for all sorts of projects. Buying a ticket was regarded as a civic duty. The Archbishop of Canterbury in England got behind lotteries to fund the British Museum and Westminster Bridge. They were not regarded as a sinful pastime.

Brought with the colonizers

The idea came to America with the colonizers, who used the model well. In 1612, with the settlement at Jamestown struggling, The Virginia Company held a lottery to raise additional funding and save the settlers from starvation. Lotteries became popular across America, using funds to bolster the coffers of the War of Independence and build iconic architecture like Princeton and Boston’s Faneuil Hall.


However, the winds of change were blowing, and the morality of gambling got called into question. In addition, there were worries about corruption, with lotteries being set up and prizes never being awarded. In the 1830s, New York and Boston outlawed them, and most of the other states followed suit. Las Vegas cashed in where other states feared to tread.

New Jersey wanted some of the action

New Jersey was a pivotal player in the relaxation of gambling legislation. A state-wide referendum had heralded land-based casinos but only in the resort of Atlantic City. The project was set up to redevelop the urban area and encourage the hospitality industry to create a ‘Playground of The World.’ However, it took until 2013 until the structures were in place to allow legal online gambling in the state. Then in 2018, the state won the landmark lawsuit that ushered in legal sports betting across the country.

All change

Now gambling is legal in almost every state in the US, except for Hawaii and Utah. What is and is not legal varies enormously from state to state. However, despite online casinos being legalized before the changes to sports betting swept across the country, only a handful of states allow it. Others, like Montana, have online social casinos. These enable people to gamble with friends via sites like Facebook. While these might be fun, they are not comparable to the best online casino in MI, PA, or NJ.

Online casino states

The states where there is online casino gambling for real money are Michigan, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, West Virginia, and Connecticut. While the idea has been mooted that, at some point, the legislature in Montana might consider legalizing online casino gambling, there is nothing currently on the statute planned in this area. State residents still need to travel from home to participate in gambling.

Montana’s strange relationship with sports betting

Sports betting is legal in Montana. However, online sports betting is relatively restricted and not open to commercial operators. In addition, sports betting in Montana is by way of a government-run organization. All sports betting products in the state are extensions of the lottery.

There is only one legal sports betting app in the state, Sports Bet Montana. While wagers on basketball and football can be placed online using it, players cannot wager outside of a sportsbook location in the state. While the app lets players register and make deposits, they must travel to a physical location to lay a bet. Montana has more retail sportsbook locations than any other state, so it’s rarely very far.

Designated kiosks

A lottery ticket seller can offer sports betting through designated kiosks found across the state. The truth is residents are never far from one of these kiosks. However, there are other restrictions, including a limit on the maximum amount that can be bet. The law on this is somewhat at odds with itself, however. The largest amount that bettors can wager in person is $250. However, online bettors at the specially designed kiosks can place a bet of $1,000, which is four times that of the in-person wager.