On Wednesday, June 14, 2023 Vermont Governor Phil Scott (R) signed into law H.127, a bill that legalized sports betting within the state. Unlike many states, Vermont did not provide for retail sports betting, instead creating an online sports betting market.
About sports betting in Vermont
Regulatory authority over VT’s new sports betting industry has been vested in the Vermont Department of Liquor and Lottery. The department is authorized to negotiate and enter into contracts with sports betting providers to allow between two and six operators to do business in the state. It would also have the power to punish companies that violate the rules by imposing monetary penalties, suspension of licenses, and/or ceasing all operations in the state.
The selection of sports betting operators will be done through a competitive bidding process. As such, the exact tax rate on sports betting revenue will be part of the proposals that each applicant submits and may vary from operator to operator. However, the law sets 20% of gross revenue from sports betting as the threshold. In addition, there is an operator fee of $550,000. The period of time that will cover this fee is negotiable; however, it will be no less than three years.
Fees and revenue shares paid by licensed sports betting businesses will be placed into the Sports Betting Enterprise Fund. It appears that the distribution of these funds will be decided on a year-by-year basis, but it appears that some of the money will go to the Problem Gambling Program and the administration of a self-exclusion program.
Prohibited bets and other rules
Wagering will be open to those within the borders of Vermont who are 21 years of age or older. No wagering will be permitted on collegiate sporting events taking place in Vermont or involving Vermont teams. Similarly, betting on games where participants are predominantly under 18 years of age is prohibited. Curiously, horse racing is considered a “sporting event” under the terms of the H.127so betting on races is also permitted by this legislation.
According to the text of the bill, requests for proposals would go out in July, and prospective VT sports bettors would be able to submit their bids starting in August. In September, the Department of Liquor and Lotteries will choose which sports bets to license. By the end of the year, the contracts will be finalized and the necessary documentation will be signed.
Then in January 2024, we hope that the first sports betting will be ready to appear. That’s a somewhat ambitious six-to-seven-month timeframe from the passage of the bill to the launch of sports betting, but is likely to be facilitated by the state’s small size and the fact that licenses are limited to six.
Reactions to the bill
Governor Scott, a longtime supporter of legalizing sports betting in Vermont, was pleased with the passage of H.127. IN statement on June 14 he said:
I first proposed that Vermont legalize sports betting a few years ago, and I’m happy that the Legislature also agreed. We know many Vermonters already participate in the marketplace, and bringing it on board provides important resources and consumer protections. Vermont now joins many other states that have taken this step, and I want to thank Commissioner Knight and her team, as well as members of the Legislature, for their collaborative approach on this issue.
Opponents of expanded betting in Vermont cite problems with gaming. As Department of Mental Health Deputy Commissioner Alison Krompf noted: “There is still a need to educate and ensure that people are aware of some of the myths about problem gambling, which is often that it is entirely skill-based and “I have it completely under control.'”
Even VT sports betting fans expect it not to get very big. Projections show $2 million for the state in the first year, rising to possibly $10 million in subsequent years. The fact that all neighboring states have already legalized sports betting undoubtedly contributes to the low expectations for sports betting in Vermont, as the industry cannot rely on out-of-state people traveling to place bets in the Green Mountain State.
The road to legalization
After the Supreme Court ruled in May 2018 that it’s fine for states to legalize sports betting if they choose, there’s been a flurry of legislation across the country aimed at doing just that.
Vermont was one of the states to begin legalizing sports betting, but initial attempts failed. In 2019, a sports betting bill was proposed in the House of Representatives, but it did not pass the committee stage. In 2020, there were two separate proposals in the Senate. One failed to advance after a committee reading, but the second actually passed the Senate and was sent to the House, where it languished.
It was a similar case in 2021, when a bill was introduced in the Senate and referred to a committee, but no further action was taken on it. Nothing interesting happened in 2022, but then in 2023 we finally saw some progress on that front.
H.127 was introduced by State Representative Matthew Birong (D) in the House of Representatives on January 31. There it went through various committees and was amended several times over the months. On March 24, it passed its third reading in the House and was sent to the Senate.
The Vermont Senate wasted no time sending the bill through various committees and readings in March, April and May, amending it several times. On May 4, it passed its third reading in the Senate.
Due to the fact that the bill was amended by the Senate after it passed the House, it had to go back to the House for reconciliation. On May 9, the House signaled that it accepted the Senate amendment and the bill was deemed passed.
For unknown reasons, there was a delay before H.127 was presented to the governor on June 8. He then signed it into law on June 14.
No need to wait
Vermont’s legalized betting market won’t be ready until early 2024, and even then it will consist of only a few operators. You can expand your palette by signing up for an offshore sportsbook, which you can do today. There’s nothing illegal about betting with these sites, so you can get your Vermont sports betting fix today regardless of the timelines set by Montpelier officials.
To learn more, check out this breakdown of the best sports betting sites for Americans. If you want to play online poker instead, check out this Vermont online poker page or this guide to internet poker for US players. And you can play online casino games too, as you’ll find out if you read this list of the best offshore casinos for Americans.