Vermont lawmakers advanced an online sports betting bill Friday, bringing legal wagering one key step closer in the region’s last holdout.
The Vermont House of Representatives Friday approved a bill that would allow statewide mobile wagering. It now heads to the Senate, where an identical version of the bill must also pass.
If approved by both chambers in the Democratic-controlled legislature it goes to the desk of Republican Gov. Phil Scott.
Vermont betting bill details
The current proposal would require the state lottery to pick between two and six operators to run mobile sports betting in the state as part of a competitive bidding process. The Vermont Lottery could pick one operator if not enough qualified companies apply.
This system mirrors the sports betting structure in neighboring New Hampshire, which likewise received bids and selected operators. Though many top operators applied, Boston-based DraftKings won a de facto monopoly after it agreed to a drastically higher tax rate than any other sportsbook in exchange for exclusive market access. No such exemption exists in Vermont’s bill.
DraftKings would again be among the likeliest candidates to bid for a Vermont license. Other market share leaders including FanDuel, Caesars and BetMGM will also likely bid. MGM operates a casino in Springfield in western Massachusetts, not far from the Vermont border.
A host of brands with smaller national footprints that operate sportsbooks in neighboring New York could also apply, including PointsBet, BetRivers, WynnBet, Bally Bet and Resorts World Bet. However, these brands have been less aggressive with state expansions in recent years and it remains unclear if they’d pursue a small market such as Vermont.
Barstool, who lost its New York sports betting license bid and whose parent company operates a casino in Massachusetts, could also be a leading candidate. Fanatics and Betr, which both have announced aggressive nationwide expansion plans and are set to launch digital sportsbooks in Massachusetts, are also potential applicants.
Last sports betting holdout
If sports betting is approved in Vermont, the entire Northeastern US, from the Virginia-North Carolina border to Canada, would have approved statewide mobile wagering. That could extend south to South Carolina and Georgia if North Carolina passes mobile legislation this year.
Vermont’s historic apathy toward sports betting and small population have helped stall sports betting legalization efforts in the state.
Though the opening of the massive Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun casinos on tribal lands in Connecticut helped spark a commercial gaming expansion through the rest of New York and New England beginning in the 1990’s, Vermont has so far resisted any notable gaming venture beyond a state lottery. It is one of the few remaining states without any tribal or commercial casinos.
Vermont is the nation’s second-least populated state, after Wyoming, which has further dissuaded substantial lobbying efforts from the gaming industry.
Still, as national attitudes have shifted – and the Northeast becomes an epicenter of legal sports betting – Vermont lawmakers have steadily warmed up to legal wagering. Lawmakers have considered bills in previous legislative sessions and with Friday’s vote, legal wagering is now closer to reality than ever.