Montanan Judge Dismisses Lottery Rule to Limit Betting to Bars and Taverns

Lewis and Clark County District Judge Kathy Seeley has sided with Montana’s protest group that challenged a Montana Lottery-backed rule that attempted to limit the availability of sports betting. According to the debated rule, businesses that offer sports betting in the jurisdiction must sign up for an alcoholic beverage license in order to continue accepting wagers. 

The Lottery originally attempted to limit sports betting to bars, taverns, and restaurants, with the relevant licenses. However, in the case filed by Arete Group, attorney Lyndon Scheveck argued that the Lottery had acted frivolously against House Bill 725 that was signed into law by Montana Governor Steve Bullock in May 2019.

Gov. Bullock had two bills to choose from, but he insisted on sticking with HB 725 as it placed sports betting under the remit of the state lottery.

“Not once in that bill does it state that you need a liquor license,” argued when he filed the lawsuit in January 2020.

The Lottery argued back, though, that HB 725 allowed the Montana Lottery to create and establish rules related to sports wagering and sports wagering sales agent licensing.

Legislature Didn’t Mention Alcoholic Beverage License, Says Judge 

Judge Seeley reviewed the case and concluded that if the requirement of an alcoholic beverage license was the original intent of legislators, they would have featured it in the bill that legalized sports betting in the state.

She added that the court would not attempt to introduce a provision that the state Legislature did not deem necessary. Scheveck was happy with the ruling, arguing that it would allow Montanans to pursue business opportunities and free up capital that would have otherwise gone into funding the red tape.

Montana Lottery representative Jennifer McKee said that the recent ruling represented an important decision and that the institution would consider its next move carefully.

Now that the case has been cleared, Scheveck added that he’ll personally be looking to start a business as there will be no complications regarding alcoholic beverage licenses. So far, sports betting in Montana has been generating decent revenue given the state’s population.

The legalization of the activity started back in March and has since netted some $9.7 million in total handle, with $531,000 of that amount going to 250 businesses.

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