Montana sports betting launched in March 2020, and it turned out to be a rough time to start the new industry. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic shut things down almost immediately, but sports eventually recovered.
Montana has a very large and impressive gaming industry, and there are pretty loose rules and regulations. The state could eventually have more than 2,000 sports betting locations, but almost all of these will be in the form of self-serve betting kiosks.
They also chose just one operator to run the entire industry, keeping some of the biggest names in the industry out of the state. Mobile sports betting is permitted, but only in specific locations.
The state’s size will allow it to become a player in the US sports betting industry, but some things will hold it back.
The History Behind Legal Sports Betting in MT
Governor Steve Bullock signed a sports betting bill into law in early May 2019, making Montana the first state to legalize sports betting that year. House Bill 725 made it to the Governor’s desk, and he quickly supported the bill and gave his signature.
Previously, Bullock had vetoed Senate Bill 330, which would have also legalized sports betting. SB 330 attempted to create a much larger sports betting industry by allowing retail locations to partner with other sports betting operators.
Sports betting launched in March 2020 with more than 100 different retail locations offering wagering. The Sports Bet Montana app launched at the same time, but full mobile betting is still unavailable.
The Montana Department of Justice oversees the gambling industry in the state, but it has placed the Montana Lottery in charge of getting the industry up and running. INTRALOT was chosen to power the sports betting kiosks and mobile app.
All of the mobile betting must take place on the premises of a land-based retailer, which will severely limit that portion of the industry. The state did approve betting on collegiate sporting events, which was a victory for the sportsbooks.
Eventually, there could be over 2,000 different locations to place a bet on sports inside of the state.
Financial History Behind Legal Sports Betting in Montana
Montana has not gotten off to a very good start since launching sports betting, and the COVID-19 pandemic has played only a small role. Limited mobile betting has kept the numbers down and poor odds being set by INTRALOT.
Montana generated just a few million dollars in sports betting handle in the industry’s first year. These numbers fall well short of some other states that launched around the same time.
Most other states have been averaging at least $100 million in total handle each month, but Montana has seen very little action.
Just before the start of the 2020 NFL season, Sports Bet Montana announced that it went over the $5 million mark in total betting handle. According to the latest report from the Montana Lottery, those numbers have more than doubled since that time.
The Montana Lottery announced that $4.54 million of the first $5 million wagered was returned to customers. The state is hoping that with an increase in total handle, it will also lead to a much better revenue percentage.
The first weekend of the 2020 NFL season brought in close to $200,000 in betting handle, and that number has continued to rise. Montana sports betting never became a revenue generator. The state only makes a few million a year from it.
Montana also continues to have new kiosks installed throughout the state, giving bettors more places to make their bets. It seems this will not help much. The largest problem is the monopoly sports betting operator posts some of the worst odds in the world. While a straight bet usually has -110 on both sides at a competitive sportsbook, it is -115 or -120 on both sides at Sports Bet Montana. Moneylines can have 50 or 100-point spreads. This sends bettors to local bookies and offshore.
Sportsbook Apps in Montana
Montana’s only sports betting app is called Sports Bet Montana, and it was launched by the Montana State Lottery. The lottery took bids and applications when selecting an operator, and INTRALOT was eventually given the job.
INTRALOT installed sports betting kiosks throughout the state, and this is how a majority of the sports betting is done. Mobile betting will be offered through the Sports Bet Montana app, but there is a major catch.
Bettors are allowed to place a bet through the Sports Bet Montana app, but they must be located on the premises of a land-based location. Location services must be enabled on the device to ensure that a bet can be made. Mobile sports betting in Mississippi works similarly.
Most sports betting customers would simply rather head inside and place a bet at that point, but the state does give bettors the option. It’s unlikely that state lawmakers will make any changes to the mobile betting regulations in the future.
Retail Locations to Bet on Sports in Montana
Even though the state limits all wagers to retail locations, or at least on the premises, there are still plenty of betting options available. Montana has an impressive gambling industry, and the size of the state offers plenty of room for retail betting locations.
There are more than 140 licensed retail sports betting locations in the state. These are generally located at video lottery casinos and off-track betting parlors. Each property has sports betting kiosks installed, while some of the bigger casinos have an actual sportsbook.
Almost all of the retail sports betting locations are located in the biggest cities or towns in Montana, but there are some remote locations as well. None of these retail casinos are allowed to launch a mobile sports betting app. Additionally, they cannot seek a partnership with another sports betting operator. That doesn’t allow Montana to create a competitive sports betting market, which is a loss for sports bettors.
Here are some of the larger sportsbook locations currently up and running in Montana:
- Charging Horse Casino
- Fort Belknap Casino
- Gray Wolf Casino
- Kwataqnuk Casino
- Lucky Lil’s Casino
- Magic Diamond Casino
- Montana Nugget
- Northern Winz Casino
- Silver Wolf Casino
Sports Teams to Bet on in Montana
Montana is not home to any major professional sports teams, which could significantly impact the success of the sports betting industry. There are many popular minor league teams located throughout the state, but most sportsbooks won’t feature betting options on these events.
The University of Montana Grizzlies and the Montana State Bobcats are the only Division-1 athletic teams located in the state. These two teams are both extremely popular.
The problem with Montana and Montana State is that they compete in the FCS for college football, and betting is only offered on FBS-level events. The Bobcats and Grizzlies will be popular betting options during the college basketball season.
Since there aren’t any professional sports teams located in the state, fans are forced to look elsewhere to find a team to follow. It’s hard to know exactly what teams are the most popular, but the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos are both big NFL teams.
Betting on the National Football League is extremely popular throughout the United States, and Montana will be looking to that sport to help drive the industry. College football is also a popular sport to bet on, and the Pac-12 and Mountain West Conferences offer some great betting options.
The Denver Nuggets are one of the most popular NBA teams in Montana, as well as the Portland Trail Blazers. These two teams, along with the March Madness tournament, will bring in plenty of bets during hoops season.
Montana might not be a state known for its sports, but there are still enough popular teams to help drive sports betting heading into 2021.
FAQ for betting in Montana
When was sports betting legalized in Montana?
Sports betting became legal on May 3, 2019, when Governor Steve Bullock signed a sports betting bill into law.
When was sports betting officially launched in Montana?
Sports betting officially launched in March 2020.
What group oversees sports betting in the state?
The Montana Department of Justice oversees the gambling. However, the Montana Lottery is in charge of the sports betting industry and offering wagers.
What is the legal betting age in Montana?
The legal gambling age in Montana is just 18 years of age, and that includes the sports betting industry.
Can I place a bet on my phone in Montana?
Yes, mobile betting is available in Montana, but only in certain locations. You must be on the premises of a retail sports betting location to place a bet.
Do I have to live in Montana to place a bet?
No, but you do have to be within the state to register for an account.
Can I bet on collegiate sporting events in Montana?
Yes, betting on collegiate sporting events is legal in Montana. Unfortunately, wagers on two in-state college football teams are unavailable since these schools compete at the FCS level.
Are Daily Fantasy Sports contests allowed in Montana?
Daily fantasy sports contests are only permitted through the state lottery. Other operators, such as DraftKings and FanDuel, are not licensed in the state.
Are there multiple betting options available in Montana?
Yes, sportsbooks can offer a wide range of betting options. Sports Bet Montana is set up to offer several different betting types, including future bets and parlays. Prop betting is also available on some major sporting events.