A Vermont study committee is set to recommend the legalization of sports betting in a report expected to be approved next week.
The Sports Betting Study Committee was established as part of a study bill approved by the legislature this year, and members have met regularly since September to answer several questions, including whether the state should legalize sports betting, what model it should use to do so, and what type of regulatory tools should be included in such a system.
The committee met again on Tuesday (December 7) to go over the final changes of the report that it will submit, including a recommendation that the state permit mobile wagering and study the feasibility of a retail wagering model.
“Based on the testimony and evidence presented by experts and regulators, the Committee has found that the best option for Vermont is to first open the sports wagering market with mobile and online wagering,” a draft version of the report says.
Among the factors considered in leaving retail betting out initially is the significant capital investments and sufficient regional population needed to sustain effective retail locations, as well as requirements for increased surveillance and a physical presence of gaming control staff.
Another issue that committee members said would be added to the final report, is the fact that many states that had successful retail operations had existing casino markets.
On the mobile front, the committee is recommending a model that mirrors its next-door neighbor New Hampshire, proposing a state-run framework that would authorize the Department of Liquor and Vermont Lottery to select offers through a competitive bidding process.
The committee recommended against a model where the Vermont Lottery operates its own platform, looking at examples of Oregon, Montana and Washington, D.C.
“The committee analyzed states that have established unique wagering platforms and found that those states suffered from slow implementation, lower customer engagement, and lower revenue generation,” the draft report reads.
“Instead, the committee determined that the state would be best served by conducting a competitive bidding process, which would allow the department to select the most qualified operators based on the state’s institutional priorities,” it continued.
“The committee found that the control states that used a bidding process were more successful at finding high quality operators and efficiently introducing an active and robust market.”
The committee recommended that the department be authorized to negotiate contracts with between two and six mobile operators, although it would be permitted to authorize a single agent if they were the lone qualified applicant.
“It was the consensus of the committee that the state should not establish a single rights-holder, unless the competitive bidding process does not result in more than one qualified bidder,” the draft reads.
“The committee also determined that a maximum number of operators should be established due to the relative size of Vermont’s market.”
A tax rate, the committee said, could be set through the competitive bidding process, although lawmakers also pointed out that the legislature should set a minimum statutory tax rate.
Some of the wording could change slightly prior to an expected December 13 vote on a final report, but the committee’s intent has been clear throughout the series of meetings.
Republican Governor Phil Scott has been on record in recent years as supporting sports-betting legislation, and Vermont remains the lone state in the New England region that has yet to adopt legislation, although Massachusetts and Maine have yet to launch any form of wagering.