Although it has been a long-running joke that Vermont will eventually become the final New England state to legalize sports betting – when it gets around to it – the state’s lawmakers have been making significant moves in recent months to bring that about. A draft bill is now on its way to the floor of the state legislature in the New Year, and there has been method to the slow operation of the commission looking into it. In the past week, the commission presented its proposal for how sports betting in the state could be delivered – and they’ve gone to some lengths to answer questions before they are asked in the debate.
The level of opposition to sports betting in Vermont has not been as heavy in the Green Mountain state as it has been elsewhere, but it does exist, and has tended to coalesce around the potential for problem gambling and the expense involved in maintaining it. The study committee has taken the time to hear testimony on the risks and rewards involved in legalizing betting, and has included these arguments in its final report. Whatever anyone will say in the aftermath of any potential legalization, they won’t be able to suggest that the process has been short-cut.
Take, for example, the concern over making sports betting too easy, something that is purported to contribute to problem gambling. The state committee has been very clear that a primary recommendation is to only permit deposits to be made in cash and by debit card. Credit cards would not be permitted, which would ensure that Vermont residents cannot fund their betting using money they don’t have. This is a notable difference to legislation that has been passed elsewhere, and is a development that may have been informed by recent legislation passed in a number of European countries to reduce problem gambling.
Additionally, transactions would be made online-only and subject to daily and weekly betting limits, which would be automatically trackable. Potential sports bettors would only be able to deposit and bet up to a certain amount, so as to ensure that they could not bet away more money than they can afford to. By making the process online-only, they would ensure that bettors are not able to go from place to place betting up to the limit at each outlet, and as a result could enforce those limits more strenuously.
The rest of the recommendations made by the panel included a vetted bidding process for sports betting licenses, which would allow accreditation to go to the highest legitimate bidder. By doing this, Vermont could ensure the highest possible revenue to come into the state and provide tax money that could be put to beneficial use, including providing assistance for anyone who developed problematic gambling patterns. While there will, undoubtedly, remain some amount of opposition to the passage of sports betting legislation, it seems clear that the – sometimes ponderous – progress of the exploratory committee has given the state a chance to pass the best legislation possible.