A Vermont sports betting bill is on its way to Gov. Phil Scott after receiving final passage by a House voice vote on Tuesday.
Scott has signaled that he will sign the legislation (H.127) once it reaches his desk. That will put Vermont on track to have its mobile sports betting program up and running no later than Jan. 1, 2024, under the legislation.
The Green Mountain State is the last in New England to legalize sports betting. Massachusetts was the only other holdout before it legalized retail and mobile in 2022.
Only a handful of nay votes sounded through the lower chamber today as lawmakers voted to agree with Senate changes to H.127, sponsored by Rep. Matt Birong, D-Vergennes. The bill will allow the state’s Department of Liquor and Lottery (DLL) to negotiate contracts with no fewer than two and no more than six operators in what state officials say will be a small but competitive Vermont sports betting market.
A request for bids will go out on or before July 1, DLL Commissioner Wendy Knight told Gaming Today in an exclusive interview last week. She said the bid process will determine how many operators will be licensed and at what tax rate – keeping in mind a minimum allowable tax rate of 20 percent in the legislation.
The tax rate could go as high as 50 percent, according to some fiscal estimates. Vermont state revenue would reach $10.6 million in fiscal year (FY) 2025 at a tax rate of 50 percent per a state fiscal note.
Vermont Sports Betting’s Road to Passage
The Vermont Senate had passed the bill on May 4 after approving several amendments, including the addition of a single $550,000 license fee per operator, instead of a graduated fee proposed by the House. The House agreed to the change when it gave final passage to the bill on Tuesday. It also agreed to penalties for violation, as well as a Senate proposal to base future problem gambling appropriations on recommendations made to the legislature early next year.
Specific appropriations in H.127 as amended and agreed to for FY 2024 include:
- $250,000 in new funding for the state’s Problem Gambling Fund
- $550,000 to the Department of Liquor and Lottery for sports wagering regulation
- $100,000 to the state’s IT agency to establish a sports wagering self-exclusion digital list
A request made by Knight to replace line-item appropriations for problem gambling in H.127 with funding based on five percent of state sports betting revenue was denied by the Senate Appropriations Committee in April. Instead, the committee decided to base funding in FY 2025 on a recommended specific appropriation and funding as of FY 2026 on a recommended percentage.
Those recommendations are expected to be made by DLL and the Department of Mental Health (which will have more oversight over the state’s problem gambling program starting next fiscal year) by Jan. 15, 2024. Lawmakers would then consider those recommendations as part of the 2024 state budget process.