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It's been more than five years since the U.S. Supreme Court lifted the federal ban on sports betting in June 2018. More than two dozen states have embraced legal sports betting with open arms, allowing citizens to wager on sports legally.
Most recently, Vermont moved one step closer to legalizing online sports betting with the passing of HB 127. The bill passed through the House of Representatives last week and would allow for the operation of two to six online sports betting sites in Vermont.
If it passes in the Senate, Vermont will become the latest state to legalize sports betting, joining the growing list of states that have legalized sports betting in recent years.
HB 127, filed by Matthew Birong and nine additional house members, HB127 has paved the way for up to six online sports betting brands to operate in the state. The bill, passed almost unanimously, stipulates that no in-person betting will be allowed and that the Department of Liquor and Lottery will regulate the industry.
"It was a long time coming," said Birong, "a lot of work went into this over a few years, and it felt good to finally move the piece of legislation."
Operators must pay an annual fee of $275,000 for each license obtained and propose a tax rate they're willing to pay based on their estimated gross sports wagering revenue. The market is expected to generate around $10m annually for the state.
The bill also includes provisions for responsible gaming and a plan for maximizing sustainable revenue for the state through a comprehensive market analysis. While collegiate sports betting will be allowed, it won't be permitted on events featuring a college team or institution in Vermont.
The bill includes provisions for consumer protection measures, ensuring that sports betting operators follow strict regulations and guidelines to protect consumers and prevent problem gambling.
HB 127 would require that at least 2.5% of sports betting tax revenue, or $250K (whichever is greater), be set aside for a newly created Responsible Gaming Special Fund. But that's not all - Birong's legislation would also mandate that every sportsbook operator submit an annual responsible gaming plan to the state, outlining how they plan to inform players about responsible gaming resources and self-exclusion programs. And if a sportsbook wants to receive an operating license in Vermont, they'll need to have their responsible gaming strategy approved by the Liquor and Lottery Department first.
To ensure that sports betting isn't exacerbating problem gambling in the state, the Liquor and Lottery Department will collaborate with the Vermont Department of Mental Health on an annual report assessing the impact of sports betting on problem gambling.
Bettors would not be permitted to use credit cards for deposits; otherwise, if a bettor is at least 18 years old, they could legally place a wager — potentially in the near future!
By following in the footsteps of neighboring states, Vermont could unlock a significant stream of tax revenue through sports betting. New York, for example, legalized online sports betting in early 2022 and generated a whopping $108.2 million in gross revenue from wagers just one year later.
Meanwhile, New Hampshire legalized online sports betting in 2019 and recently brought $3.3 million in revenue from wagers via DraftKings. And with Massachusetts authorizing online sports betting earlier this month, experts project the Bay State could rake in around $60 million in annual tax revenue from the industry.
Critics have raised concerns about the potential negative impacts of sports betting. However, supporters believe it is time for Vermont to catch up with the rest of the nation and legalize sports betting. Vermonters are eagerly awaiting the Senate's decision on the bill's fate before May 9 – the end of the state's current legislative session.