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Legal sports betting in Montana will launch in March

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The wait for sports betting is nearly over, and the light is expected to break through the clouds hanging over Big Sky Country sometime next month.

The Montana Lottery Commission approved the types of bets and the sports that can be wagered on during a February 20 meeting.

Lottery officials initially approved the drafted rules in November, but the recent meeting determined precisely what could be offered at “Sports Bet Montana”—the lottery’s state-run sportsbook.

Sports Bet Montana will accept the following bet types: Point spread, money line, over/under, in-game (live or in-play) wagers, parlays, prop bets, and futures.

Additionally, the professional and collegiate sports that are allowed to receive wagers include baseball, basketball, boxing/MMA, football, golf, ice hockey, soccer, tennis, and motorsports.

Legal sports betting in Montana will begin once the terminals for Sports Bet Montana are installed, and the staff has completed the necessary training.

Jennifer McKee, the communications manager for the Montana Lottery, said they would start installing terminals on the week of March 9, and an official launch date should come before betting on March Madness begins on March 17.

“We are in the home stretch of our planning and testing,” McKee said. “We are really looking forward to getting Sports Bet Montana in the market, and we’re as excited as Montanans are for betting to begin.”

The Montana Lottery launched its sports betting product in December 2019 and began accepting applications for an operator’s license soon after.

Because of the state’s size and the distance lottery training staff must travel, officials said they plan to have a soft launch and slowly roll out both the terminals and the official website for Sports Bet Montana.

Lottery staff will travel to communities all across the state in the coming weeks and begin teaching the approved licensed sports betting locations on how to use the terminals and accept customers wagers.

The Montana Lottery promises to work as quickly as possible but is asking for everyone’s patience since they want to ensure the public that Sports Bet Montana meets a high standard of quality.

More than 100 sales agents have been licensed so far and are currently awaiting the terminals and training to begin accepting bets. Any of the state’s 1,400 establishments presently licensed to sell lottery tickets and alcohol are eligible to offer wagers on sports.

Montana became the first state to legalize sports betting in 2019 when Gov. Steve Bullock, a former 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, signed the legislation into law back in May.

Since then, officials have delayed the launch of sports betting on more than one occasion. The dispute over awarding Intralot, the existing provider for the Montana Lottery’s services, a no-bid sports betting contract nearly postponed the launch indefinitely.

Lottery attorney’s argued sports betting is a new lottery game, which means Sports Bet Montana services would go to Intralot since they’ve under contract with the Montana Lottery since 2014.

A mobile wagering app will eventually be available on Apple and Android devices, but players will be prohibited from placing bets outside the licensed establishment’s premises.

If Sports Bet Montana stays on schedule and begins to accept wagers by mid-March, then Montana will become the first state of 2020 to launch legal sports betting.

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