Vermont Committee Supports Mobile Sports Betting, With Retail Requiring Further Study

October 26, 2022
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A Vermont committee has begun to piece together what sports betting in the state could look like as legislators prepare to consider the issue next year.

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A Vermont committee has begun to piece together what sports betting in the state could look like as legislators prepare to consider the issue next year.

Vermont is one of just 14 U.S. states that has yet to pass sports wagering legislation and has yet to really come close to doing so in recent years.

However, legislators did approve a bill this year to form a committee to study sports betting, and that committee has held weekly meetings since September to learn more about the space and contemplate recommendations to send to the legislature to formulate a bill.

In the last few meetings, the Sports Betting Study Committee has trended towards recommending a state-controlled competitive bid model, following in the footsteps of neighboring New Hampshire, as well as New York, rather than a New Jersey-style licensing model or a state-run product like in Washington, D.C.

On Tuesday (October 25), the committee heard from New Hampshire Lottery director Charlie McIntyre on how the state's sports-betting model has worked to date, with one of the biggest questions committee's agenda being whether to recommend a mobile-only product or pursue a mobile and retail hybrid model like New Hampshire.

McIntyre highlighted some of the advantages of having retail, including a lower volume but higher average play customer than a mobile product.

But he said that although retail made up about 20 percent of the state’s handle, it accounts for a significantly larger portion of the lottery’s workload.

“The difficulty of these are not to be dismissed or understated, like the amount of cash involved because there's no credit,” McIntyre said. “The facility in one weekend might have a million dollars in cash in the facility and … complying with any money laundering laws is difficult … because of the amount of difficulty of handling that cash.

“Tracking the kiosk usage is a challenge because folks may try to use five kiosks to place bets to stay under the anti-money laundering or the activity report to be triggered, so tracking that is difficult,” McIntyre continued. “And obviously anonymous play, because folks are playing, we don’t know who they are, whereas mobile we do."

McIntyre said that a sufficient population density is needed to host a retail sportsbook and added that New Hampshire had very few players coming across the border from Vermont to place sports wagers.

“I think you would find the cost to operate a physical location for a state this size and the population density involved would be financially unfeasible,” McIntyre said. “If I thought Vermont was worth it, I’d have a Vermont sportsbook in [New Hampshire border town] Lebanon."

“I would do research on it first, rather than standing something up, because they’re expensive even just to stand up,” he added of retail sportsbooks.

The Vermont legislative committee heeded that advice in issuing a recommendation on Tuesday to pursue a mobile-only product at first, while also recommending that a report be issued within three years looking at the potential retail market.

“I was glad they reaffirmed that for me; it’s something I think we can take a look at if things change, if we find out through the activity and the customer feedback that there is a desire, we could have the conversation,” said Representative Matt Birong, one of the committee’s four legislative members.

“I just don’t feel like it’s something to chase at the moment,” Birong added of retail sports betting.

“I think I can live with all that, I don’t disagree in their assessment, but I think there would be value in seeing how it might work,” added Senator Dick Sears, another committee member.

Vermont’s 2023 legislative session is set to begin January 4 and run through May, where a sports-betting bill that includes these recommendations could be considered.

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