Vermont: Mobile sports betting plan passes House, Senate begins bill committee reviews

On Friday, Vermont‘s House of Representatives passed HB127, a bill that would legalize sports betting. This marks the first time a sports wagering proposal has successfully passed through either chamber in the Green Mountain State. SB105, a similar bill, is currently undergoing various committee reviews in the Senate. The state‘s legislative session is scheduled to end on May 19.

The Senate Committee on Economic Development, Housing, and General Affairs resumed its ongoing discussion of the issue also on Friday. During the brief revisit, panelists hashed over House Bill 127, which passed in that chamber and is now in the hands of the Senate.

Tucker Anderson of the General Assembly’s Office of Legislative Counsel combed through some of the provisions the House passed into HB127 and what they could mean for the companion legislation in SB105.

The House-adopted version of the bill includes several provisions that have been introduced throughout the amendments that have been incorporated during committee meetings and on the legislative floor.

“There is a 20% minimum revenue share built into HB127 now,” Anderson said, as reported by the Washington Examiner, pointing to one example of the changes incorporated during his discussion with the Senate committee. While some elements of HB127 are Vermont-specific, others are borrowed from the playbooks of states that have already legalized sports wagering.

A study committee had been meeting last year to examine the pros and cons of bringing sports gambling to Vermont. A finalized report submitted in late 2022 recommended the prohibition of credit cards – a stipulation that survived all markups of HB127. 

State Sen. Kesha Ram Hinsdale, D-Chittenden, is chairwoman of the Committee on Economic Development, Housing, and General Affairs. She said she was pleased to see the credit card ban remain intact. “When we talk about problem gambling, that’s one thing,” Hinsdale said

Should HB127 become law, the Department of Liquor and Lottery will be responsible for regulating sports betting. A minimum of two and a maximum of six mobile sportsbooks will be granted licenses through a competitive bidding process. However, if not enough qualified bidders participate, the bill offers the possibility of only one mobile operator. The Department of Liquor and Lottery will negotiate revenue-sharing agreements with operators. 

Licenses would cost $275,000, and money generated from sports wagering would go to the state’s General Fund. It is expected that at least $250,000 will be sent each year to the Responsible Gaming Special Fund.

Wagering on professional and college sports would be allowed, although bettors would not be allowed to bet on in-state college teams unless they were competing in a tournament. It’s an unusual college wagering rule that matches Massachusetts’ system. The bill does not include any in-person retail wagering.

Vermont’s neighboring states – Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and New York – have all legalized mobile sports betting. Every state in New England, apart from Vermont, has legal wagering, although Maine has yet to launch its sports betting market.

Massachusetts’ mobile market went live earlier this month, ahead of the start of March Madness. There are over half a dozen online sports betting platforms currently available in Massachusetts, including Barstool Sportsbook, BetMGM, Caesars Sportsbook, DraftKings, FanDuel, and WynnBET. 

New Hampshire’s mobile sports betting market includes just one operator, DraftKings, while New York customers have access to nine mobile sportsbooks. In addition to the major books available in Massachusetts (other than Barstool), New York customers can also wager through BetRivers, PointsBet, Bally Bet, and Resorts World Bet.