Vermont Sports Betting Committee Continues Regulatory Discussion at Snail’s Pace

Vermont offers a quieter, slower pace of life for residents and so-called “flatlanders.” The term refers to people who have migrated north to the Green Mountain State from Boston, New York, and other parts of the northeast.

Vermont fog hovers over the sleepy village of Stowe. Vermont lawmakers continue to review whether legalizing sports betting in some form is a worthy endeavor. (Image: Getty)

While legal sports betting has rapidly expanded across the nation after the US Supreme Court in May 2018 struck down the federal ban that had largely limited such gambling to Nevada, Vermont is moving slowly.

Though legislative efforts have persisted nearly since the landmark SCOTUS decision, the Vermont Sports Betting Study Committee conceded this week that it’s no closer to recommending regulations to govern such gambling in the state. That will only further frustrate Massachusetts, New York, and New Jersey transplants who now call Vermont home who wish to be able to gamble on sports in a legal way.

A top-line regulatory issue is deciding where sports betting would be allowed if the state were to legalize gambling on pro and college sports. But even that has not yet been determined.

We have not yet decided whether to recommend only online gaming, retail, or both,” Wendy Knight, committee chair, told The Center Square this week. “I think those questions need to be addressed first before we can really understand whether we want to recommend an existing administrative structure or a new administrative structure.”

Vermont is one of only eight US states that does not have a single commercial or tribal casino. The others are Georgia, Hawaii, Kentucky, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Utah.

Gaming Liberalization

The Vermont Legislature is adjourned until its 2023 session, which is slated to begin in January. Sports betting is expected to be a topic of consideration in Montpelier for a fifth consecutive year.

Though Vermont is a Democratic-run state, it has long opposed most forms of gambling. Along with not having commercial or tribal casinos, Vermont does not permit parimutuel wagering, racinos, or iGaming. The lone exceptions are the state-run Vermont Lottery and certain forms of charitable gaming.

Since Vermonters authorized a lottery through a 1976 ballot referendum, no new forms of gambling have been authorized. But Vermont has legalized other controversial industries, one recent notable being cannabis.

Knight says there are parallels between cannabis and sports betting, though the primary difference is that marijuana remains illegal on the federal level while wagering on sports does not.

State Sen. Dick Sears (D-Bennington), who sits on the Sports Betting Study Committee and cosponsored the state’s cannabis regulations, says if Vermont wants to bring in sportsbooks, it should do so in a manner that allows small businesses to participate. In its regulation of adult-use recreational cannabis, Vermont provided incentives to encourage local growers to participate in the regulated environment.

“In the sports betting world, there are big players. One of my concerns is that when we go down the route of legalizing sports betting in Vermont, that we do not limit it to one player or one company — that we have a variety of companies available,” Sears said.

Online Critical

For Vermont to launch a sports betting industry that delivers substantial tax revenue to the state and provides bettors adequate accessibility to books, online operations would almost certainly be needed.

Vermont is a rugged, rural state with harsh, long winters. And the approximately 643,500 people who live there are spread out across the state, as the most populated city is Burlington with about 45,000 residents.

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