HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A U.S. Supreme Court ruling that clears the way for betting on the outcome of sporting events won’t have an immediate impact in Montana, but it opens up the possibility of expanded gambling offerings.
Montana is one of four states that allowed some types of sports betting before a 1993 federal law banned betting on football, basketball, baseball and other sports.
Montana residents can wager on live horse races in the state or through off-track betting at five casinos that are licensed by the Montana Board of Horse Racing. The Montana Lottery also runs fantasy football and fantasy racing games at taverns around the state, with the proceeds going to the Board of Horse Racing.
It is illegal for Montana residents to make wagers in online fantasy sports contests.
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Monday’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling makes it possible for Montana’s Legislature to pass laws allowing wagering on the outcome of sporting events, said Angela Nunn, administrator of the Montana Gambling Control Division. Lawmakers meet next starting in January 2019.
Tom Tucker, executive secretary of the Board of Horse Racing, said he’s not sure lawmakers will rush into expanding sports wagering.
“I think that there’s too many entities out there that depend on the current gambling structure,” Tucker said, noting that with the fantasy league games “the whole concept is we want people to go to the local establishments.”
If there is interest in expanding sports wagering, he said, tavern owners, the horse racing industry and gambling operators are going to have to work together to see if there’s a way to do it “without cannibalizing what we’ve already got in place.”
He noted that in the early 1980s, before Montana legalized gambling, the state had 14 racetracks, 100 days of horse racing each year and handled just over $12 million in bets. Now, he says, there are two racetracks and annual betting totals about $500,000.
Montana law does allow Calcutta auctions around events such as the NCAA tournament, in which each team is auctioned off to the highest bidder. The prize pool is dependent on the total bids and the success of each team.
Sports pools and sports tabs also are allowed. Entrants purchase random numbers with prizes awarded based on the score of the event at certain intervals and the final score