Vermont set to consider sports betting legislation following panel recommendations
Vermont lawmakers are gearing up to consider sports betting legislation during next year’s legislative session following a recommendation from state policymakers.
A nine-member panel formally recommended the state legalize mobile sports betting in a report presented earlier this week, according to a report from Seven Days, a Vermont-based media publication. The recommendation is the culmination of months of work and is the firmest step yet toward legalizing sports betting in the state.
Vermont is the last remaining Northeastern state without a legal sports betting option or that has passed a bill to do so.
Northeast sports betting market takes shape
The nation’s second-least populated state, Vermont’s push for sports betting legalization would be perhaps more notable for filling in the US sports betting map than it would be for impacting the national wagering landscape overall. More than 30 states have at least one legal retail or online betting option.
Despite the proliferation of regulated wagering in the region, Vermont lawmakers have approached sports betting more cautiously. Vermont has typically shied away from any form of legal gambling, a trend that continues with sports betting; lawmakers in the overwhelming Democratic-controlled legislature have feared gambling prays on the economically disadvantaged, a concern that continues with sports betting.
Per reports, the committee’s recommendation has tried to alleviate these concerns by prohibiting bets with credit cards as well as daily and weekly betting limits. These restrictions could help the bill pass politically, but would potentially further handicap handle potential.
The structure of the market could be even more significant.
Vermont’s neighbors have a wide range of sports betting license structures, ranging from a competitive 15-operator market to a de facto government-controlled monopoly. Lawmakers are reportedly considering a government-bid limited structure of between two-to-six operators, but it’s still too early to tell what legislators will consider.
This would seem to echo the set up of New York, the nation’s largest sports betting market by handle, which has nine operators, each of which was approved through a complex government-led bidding process. All nine operators pay 51% of gross gaming revenue without deductions for promotions, a structure that has been criticized by most of these operators and many industry stakeholders, but has nevertheless generated more per capita tax revenue than any other state.
Vermont’s eastern neighbor, New Hampshire, has a similar structure, though it has become a single-operator market thanks to a dramatic bid by DraftKings. The Boston, Massachusetts-based operator agreed to a 51% tax rate in exchange for keeping out all other operators from the state.
Rhode Island likewise has only one operator. Connecticut has three – DraftKings, FanDuel and Betrivers – which comes from a multifaceted agreement between the state’s two major gaming tribes, lottery and off-track betting facilities, among other stakeholders.
With 14 sportsbooks, Massachusetts is set to have more online sports betting operators than all other New England states combined when wagering goes live sometime next year. Maine is set to have a handful of sportsbooks, all of which will be affiliated with the state’s Native American gaming tribes, when its first mobile platforms start taking bets in 2023 or 2024.
Likely sportsbooks and next steps
With its large US market share and New England roots, DraftKings would appear to be among the leading sportsbooks to apply for a Vermont sports betting license no matter the structure. FanDuel, the US leader by gross gaming revenue, as well as other market leaders including Caesars and BetMGM would also likely pursue licensure.
No matter the structure, it is no sure bet Vermont approves sports betting.
Despite the support of Republican Gov. Phil Scott, many Democrats in the legislature reportedly remain skeptical about legal wagering. Vermont lawmakers also have to consider hundreds of other issues when the legislature convenes next year, leaving limited political oxygen for issues such as sports betting.
Vermont’s small population could also dissuade sportsbooks and other advocates from sending lobbying or other resources to Montpellier, particularly when more high-profile states such as Texas, Georgia, Missouri, Minnesota and North Carolina are all poised to consider sports betting in their upcoming respective legislative sessions.