Vermont Sports Betting Bill Passes Senate Committee Following Amendments

A Vermont sports betting bill is moving forward in the state Senate after a committee in the Legislature’s upper chamber signed off on the gaming expansion measure.

Vermont sports betting online sportsbooks
Church Street Marketplace in Burlington, Vt. Vermont sports betting is inching closer to realization after a Senate committee this week passed a measure to allow as many as six online sportsbook platforms. (Image: The New York Times)

Vermont Rep. Matthew Birong (D-Addison 3), with six Democratic and three Republican cosponsors, introduced House Bill 127 in late January. The statute seeks to allow online sportsbooks to operate inside the Green Mountain State. Vermont does not have commercial or tribal casinos, nor racinos or pari-mutuel wagering.

HB 127 passed the Vermont House of Representatives by a voice vote last month. It was a historic happening, as it marked the first time in Vermont history that a sports betting measure cleared either chamber of the Legislature in Montpelier.

The House version of HB 127 sought to authorize up to six online sportsbook platforms, with a minimum of two operators required for the market to commence. Betting on professional and college sports would be allowed, with one major exception being that college sports involving Vermont-based schools would remain prohibited regardless of where the game is played.

HB 127 also mandates that regulated sportsbooks share 20% of their gross proceeds with the state.

Senate Changes

After receiving HB 127 last month, Senate leaders directed the Vermont sports betting bill to the chamber’s Economic Development, Housing, and General Affairs Committee.

Committee members have been since laboring to adjust the sports betting statute to their liking. That resulted in several critical changes, including the Senate committee members implementing an annual fee that the online sportsbooks must pay.

The annual fee is dependent on the number of operators. The annual rate structure is as follows in the latest version of HB 127:

  • For two operators, $412,500 per operator
  • For three operators, $366,666 per operator
  • For four operators, $343,750 per operator
  • For five operators, $330,000 per operator
  • For six operators, $320,833 per operator

The Senate committee also included a provision that prohibits sportsbooks from advertising during events that are primarily intended for people under the age of 21. Sportsbooks also must submit annual marketing strategies to the state that demonstrate how the operator plans to limit its advertising materials reaching underage people.

The Senate committee also incorporated provisions requiring sportsbooks to promote responsible gaming and the available resources for those who need help in curbing their play.

Finally, the Senate committee included a directive that the Vermont Department of Liquor and Lottery, which will spearhead regulating the expanded gaming should HB 127 become law, appropriate 5% of the sports betting receipts the agency receives annually for a new sports wagering problem gambling fund.

Senate Vote Forthcoming

After writing in the HB 127 amendments, the Senate Economic Development, Housing, and General Affairs Committee voted 4-1 in favor of moving the legislation forward.

This will be a success if you pass this,” said Liquor and Lottery Commissioner Wendy Knight. “We will put those procedures in place, we will maximize the revenue to the state.”

The sports betting statute now moves to the full Senate floor for consideration. The bill has not yet been scheduled for debate.

Should it find favor in the Senate, the measure would then need to go back to the House for lawmakers there to approve of the Senate committee changes. If the House again votes in favor of sports betting, the bill would be sent to Gov. Phil Scott (R) who has indicated his support for the bill.

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