Vermont Sports Betting Bill Introduced to Allow Online Wagering

Posted on Feb 1, 2023 at 3:53 am.

Last updated on: February 1st, 2023 04:59 am.

Sports betting in Vermont is one step closer to legalization in the state of Green Mountain. That’s after a law authorizing such gambling was introduced this week in the capital of Montpelier.

Bill for sports betting in Vermont
The town of Middlebury, Vt. is seen after a fresh snowfall in March 2022. Legal sports betting may soon be coming to Vermont’s sleepy towns and villages via the Internet. (Picture: The New York Times)

Submitted by State Assemblyman Matthew Birong (D-Addison 3) and supported by six Democrats and three Republicans, House Bill 127 seeks to bring legal sports betting to Vermont. If HB127 is passed and signed into law by Gov. Phil Scott (R), the Vermont Department of Liquor and Lottery would regulate legal online sports gambling.

Because Vermont has no commercial or tribal casinos, racinos, or pari-mutuel betting establishments, the Birong Sports Betting Act would permit licensed sports bettors to operate only on the Internet. Birong, a Vermont native, believes that regulating sports betting is in the state’s best interest as it would provide consumer protections, flush out illegal bookmakers and generate new tax revenue.

The conversation about sports betting is similar to that about cannabis – get it out of the dark markets, offer consumer protection and reap the rewards.” explained Birong.

Last month, the Legislature’s Sports Betting Study Committee proposed that the state should legalize and regulate sports betting. The bipartisan committee concluded that a regulated market would be safer for consumers than local bookmakers and offshore online sites currently offering sports betting.

HB127 has been forwarded to the House Committee on Government Operations and Military Affairs for initial consideration. Birong is the vice chairman of the committee.

Mixed reception

Vermont remains one of the most restrictive states when it comes to gambling. The only forms of gambling currently permitted are the Vermont Lottery and small lottery games, which charities and non-profit organizations are permitted to operate.

Some state lawmakers believe it’s time to allow certain forms of gambling to keep money in the state. Many Vermonters travel to neighboring Massachusetts and New York to place their sports bets and play at commercial casinos.

Scott is among the Vermont politicians campaigning to bring legal sports betting to the state.

It’s being done here in the state and we just have to find a way forward that we can provide for the protection necessary to make it viable for us and Vermonters. Scott said last week.

But other powerful lawmakers, including Democratic House Speaker Jill Krowinski, aren’t so sure.

Krowinski said in December that she needed to see more data and “understand sports betting better” before forming an opinion.

legislative branch

Vermont last expanded gambling in 1976 with its lottery. The legalization of sports betting will be made much easier as no referendum would be required for the expansion. This is because gambling would fall within the scope of the lottery.

However, the legislative way forward will be complicated. Krowinski has said that for a sports betting bill to receive adequate support, the House of Representatives must incorporate significant consumer protections to limit societal harm.

Birong’s sports betting bill contains some of these protections. He drafted the statutes based on the recommendations of the study committee.

The legislation would allow at least two but no more than six online sportsbooks. The sportsbook would have to collectively direct 2.5% of their sports betting revenue per year — or at least $250,000 — to a newly created Responsible Gaming Special Fund.

Birong’s bill would set the tax rate for sports bettors at a later date. The study board recommended a 20% tax on online operators in December — a mimicking the tax rate for online sports betting in Massachusetts.

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