Vermont passes sports wagering bill, launch as early as January 2024

A bill to legalize sports betting in Vermont left the Senate on Thursday after passing with a few amendments. The bill will now go back to the state’s House and see if members will concur with the list of amendments. The next stop would be Gov. Phil Scott’s (R) desk for signature.

House Bill, H 127, would legalize sports wagering in Vermont and authorize the Vermont Department of Liquor and Lottery (DLL) to operate and regulate sports wagering. The DLL would be tasked with negotiating and contracting with up to six online/mobile sportsbook operators. The bill also establishes a problem gambling program to be administered by the Department of Mental Health to provide education, assistance, awareness, treatment, and recovery services to people having trouble arising from addictive or problematic gambling.

The bill has a lot of guardrails, Senator Alison Clarkson told legislators on Thursday. “A lot of attention has been paid to ensure responsible gaming and problem gambling,” she said. Sportsbook operators must submit an annual responsible gaming plan to DLL and the Department of Mental Health.

In addition, many states have put tight restrictions on where sportsbooks will be able to advertise, namely around schools. Vermont will be no different.

“Your Senate economic development committee feels this is a very strong bill,” Clarkson said. “We worked on this for a long time. We have a big investment in getting it right.”

Responding to concerns about advertising, Clarkson said, “The effort will be made to restrict and have no advertising on secondary schools or on university campuses. The effort really is underscored many times in this bill to limit the impact and the enticement to anyone under 21.”

What Happens Next

Once signed by Gov. Scott, Clarkson outlined a road map on how sports wagering will be rolled out in Vermont.

“We’ll hope to pass this legislation, and we hope it will be signed by the governor in May,” Clarkson said.

Request For Proposals will be issued to sportsbook operators and posted online in July. Operators will submit bids in August.

The DLL will then evaluate the proposals and select bidders in August or September. DLL will negotiate a revenue-sharing agreement with operators as part of the process. The bill sets the minimum allowable revenue share rate at 20%. If the rate stays reasonable, bettors in Vermont can expect to see big national brands like DraftKings Sportsbook, BetMGM Sportsbook, and Caesars Sportsbook apply for licenses.

The state’s commissioner will then negotiate and execute contracts with selected sportsbooks from October through December.

“The hope is that it will go live in January and then we’ll have a whole year of revenue to see it in action,” Clarkson said.

Since 2018, 36 U.S. states and the District of Columbia have approved sports betting in some form, either in-person betting at a sportsbook facility or online through a computer or smartphone app.

The Vermont Legislative Joint Fiscal Office estimates the bill will generate approximately $2 million in fiscal year 2024, and between $4.6 million and $10.6 million in FY 2025 in sports wagering revenue.

Political Editor

Keith Stein is a freelance journalist based in Virginia. He has experience in freelance writing, full-time journalism and supporting monthly and weekly news publications. He has also worked as a contributing writer with United Press International.