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Time running short for lawmakers to get sports betting bill to Vermont Gov. Phil Scott (Glenn Russell/VTDigger via AP, Pool)

Vermont lost ground on legal sports betting back in March when the state’s lawmakers sat out a vote on the only sportsbook bill filed this legislative session. Now a new sports betting bill draft has surfaced.

Its chance at passage is up to the Vermont Senate, where the draft has yet to be filed a week from the end of session.

Most any bill has a shot at final passage until May 17, the last day of the session, based on legislative rules that allow Senate leadership to refer bills to committee past a so-called “crossover” date scheduled in March. The crossover date is when a bill must pass from one legislative chamber to the other to have the best chance at final passage by session’s end. 

The question is, will the Senate decide to make one final push this session before lawmakers hang up their policy wands until the 2023 Vermont General Assembly meets again next January? 

The answer could come down to dollars. 

Could Economic Drag Help Sports Betting’s Chances In Vermont? 

Labor shortages have hit Vermont hard in the age of COVID, leading to less revenue for the state. The saving grace to date has reportedly been around $10 billion in federal relief to Vermont, boosting consumer spending and state tax revenue. 

But economist Jeff Carr – an independent advisor to Vermont Gov. Phil Scott and the state legislature – reportedly anticipates slimmer budgets ahead. 

According to the weekly newspaper Seven Days Vermont, Carr “predicts general fund revenues would drop by $17 million in 2024 as the stimulus funds dry up and tax revenues come back to earth” without new state dollars to fill the void. 

That’s where sports betting can help. The draft pending in the Senate Economic Development Committee states Vermont could generate tax revenues “from $640,000 to $4.8 million in the first year of sports wagering”. Estimates range from $1.3 million to $10.3 million in the second year. 

How much is actually generated, however, would depend on how state lawmakers structure the state’s regulatory framework.

Draft Legislation As It Stands Now

The draft proposal would allow no more than six mobile sports betting operators, all competitively bid by the state. Which operators are selected would be up to the state Department of Lottery, which would consider the following in its selection at a minimum: 

  • Estimated potential gross sports betting revenue, and the percentage of that to be paid to the state;
  • Number of skins (mobile apps) proposed; 
  • Responsible gaming plan and applicable safeguards; 
  • List of jurisdictions where the applicant is already authorized to conduct sports betting; 
  • Proposed player acquisition model and marketing plan; 
  • Estimated time frame for sports betting launch; 
  • Planned monitoring systems;
  • Plan for maximizing long-term state revenue. 

No tax rate is written into the draft but could be added in committee, should the bill be considered within the next few days. 

Licensing and operator fees are written into the draft, and would include: 

  • $50,000 license fee per operator (or “agent”) per year, renewal for $20,000 annually
  • $100,000 annual operational fee per operator

All state sports betting revenue, minus administrative costs, would go to the state’s general fund. 

Little Optimism For Vermont’s Original Sports Betting Bill

Beyond the new draft proposal, there is also a chance for lawmakers to take up the only official sports betting bill before the 2022 session ends on May 17. 

Vermont Sen. Dick Sears, D-Bennington, filed the bill (S.77) back in Feb. 2021 – the first year of Vermont’s two-year legislative session. It has been waiting for a vote in the Sen. Economic Development Committee ever since. 

S.77 is similar to the new draft legislation with some exceptions. But its chances at passage are slimmer than Sears would prefer. 

In an email to Gaming Today on Monday, Sears seemed doubtful his bill can survive another week. 

“Unfortunately the chances are slim to none with just a few days left in the session,” Sears wrote. 

About the Author
Rebecca Hanchett

Rebecca Hanchett

Writer and Contributor
Rebecca Hanchett is a political writer based in Kentucky's Bluegrass region who covers legislative developments at Gaming Today. She worked as a public affairs specialist for 23 years at the Kentucky State Capitol. A University of Kentucky grad, she has been known to watch UK basketball from time to time.

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