The Supreme Court’s decision Monday sent waves throughout a country obsessed with sports. The court ruled in favor of New Jersey, allowing states the power to legalize sports gambling. Several states are expected to jump at the opportunity immediately, but you probably won’t see sports books in Montana very soon.
The ruling actually does not impact the Treasure State. Montana already could allow sports gambling, because old laws were grandfathered in when the U.S. passed anti-gambling legislation in 1992. But the state has not chosen to allow sports gambling outside of state-run fantasy games.
The Montana Department of Justice labels the sports gambling allowed in Montana as “non-banking games in which players bet against and settle with each other rather than betting against and settling with the house.” This is in contrast to the type of gambling against the house that New Jersey was fighting for, and had previously only been allowed in Nevada.
It would take new legislation for this gambling to become legal in Montana. Legislators MTN Sports talked to on Monday thought a bill to allow sports books could be presented in the next session in 2019, but they did not believe a bill would pass. While regulated gambling could bring in more revenue for the state, many oppose it on moral grounds.
Kathy Swanson, a Democrat in the House of Representatives from Anaconda, feels a vote would be split down party lines. She said she would probably vote for a bill that legalized sports gambling because of the revenue it could generate for Montana, and she felt most Democrats would agree.
Republicans Mark Blasdel, a senator from Kalispell, and Forrest Mandeville, a representative from Columbus, both told MTN Sports they might vote for a sports gambling bill if it were presented in the right way, but neither expected a passable bill in the next session. Mandeville believes it’s more likely the legislature could request a study on the positives and negatives of sports gambling, which could influence a possible bill in future years.