U.S. sports betting is a reality in many states, but not in Vermont. The Green Mountain State is one of the most gambling-restricted states in the union which is why a gambit by Rep. Matthew Birong to bring sports betting to Vermont was considered a long shot. However, the bill did pass the first committee hearing and pro-gambling advocates are hopeful sports betting could be regulated in the near future.
Will Vermont Roll the Dice?
This is not the first time sports betting legislation has been brought to the fore in Vermont. Previous bills have gone on to die in the legislature but Representative Matthew Birong’s Bill H. 127 may finally be the exception to the rule.
The cause for optimism rests in the Government Operations and Military Affairs Committee’s 9-3 vote in favor of the bill. Yet, that is only the first step in what would be a long journey through the Vermont legislature. The next stop will be the Ways and Means Committee where it will be considered for further review.
Perhaps the most important factor in this iteration is the allotment of $250,000 or 2.5% of the first year’s taxes, whichever is greater, to a designated Responsible Gaming Special Fund which will fall under the aegis of the Vermont Department of Mental Health. Year 2 would see $500,000 or 5% of the tax revenue earmarked for the Responsible Gaming Special Fund with the remainder of the tax proceeds directed to a general fund.
The bill also recommends the Department of Liquor and Lottery be selected as the licensing authority with anywhere from two to six platform providers being chosen to operate within the state’s boundaries.
“I would say that the piece of legislation that was voted out of the Government Operations Committee was the most thoughtful and robust piece of legislation that either of the legislative bodies have worked on to this point,” said the author of the bill, Representative Birong.
Birong also added, “Right now there is a tremendous amount of illegal wagering that’s happening on nefarious websites, a lot of offshore activity. We, as responsible legislators, need to take a hard look at how we can put protections in place for people who are engaging in it and bring it into a legal market with vetted operators.”
Governor Supports Sports Betting
Vermont Governor Phil Scott has been a long-standing proponent of sports betting and that enthusiasm has not waned. When asked about the likelihood of bringing betting to the masses, and if Vermont was too late to the party after all the New England states have either passed or launched online sports betting, Scott said, “I don’t know if we’re behind the times, because everyone catches up eventually.”
The governor added, “It was the same for cannabis. We heard the same argument there. But it all levels out eventually. We just want to make sure that we offer it to Vermonters and those who are coming to visit Vermont so they can do so legally.”
Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Baruth has also expressed support for sports betting legislation and taking a sooner-than-later launch. In a statement, Baruth said, “The Senate has a history of supporting the creation of a legal framework for sports betting in Vermont.
“A regulated market would provide consumer protection in a way the illicit market currently does not. We are encouraged that the committee came to a consensus on recommendations for a path forward and we look forward to continuing discussions in the coming biennium.”
Not All Parties Support Sports Betting
However, not everyone is completely on board. House Speaker Jill Krowinski reiterated concerns that she and her fellow legislators have had with the prospect of bringing sports betting to Green Mountain State.
In a press release, Krowinski stated, “Historically the House has been concerned with the protections and supports for gambling addiction and its mental health impacts. I have not had the opportunity to read the report yet, but I look forward to the committees of jurisdiction reviewing it and learning more about the recommendations to address those issues.”
*Bookmakers Review will continue to monitor this story and update our readers as events unfold.