• The Montana Lottery’s no-bid sportsbook contract with Intralot is generating controversy.
  • Various industry lobbyists want a full, open bidding process.
  • If the Intralot deal is scrapped, sports betting could be delayed into next year.

HELENA, Mont. – Montana is racing the clock to get sports betting launched statewide before the start of the upcoming NFL season. In doing so, the state has awarded a no-bid contract to Intralot to operate its mobile sports wagering service.

However, that decision has some industrial players calling foul.

Neil Peterson of the Gaming Industry Association of Montana points out that the state could be opening itself up to legal challenges with such a move.

“You’re awarding a contract that’s worth $4.5 million to $6.1 million over the next four years, each year, to a company on a no-bid contract,” said Peterson. “I’m hearing rumblings within the industry that should the Commission go ahead and do a no-bid contract … that you could have some litigation over that.”

Ronda Wiggers of the Montana Coin Machine Operators Association believes that Intralot is not the best choice for Montana bettors. She suggests that the lottery’s sports wagering contract should be awarded to more seasoned industrial operators.

“These companies have more experience in the United States sports-betting market than Intralot does, and we feel that in order to obtain the best provider for Montana, the lottery needs to go through the full [bidding] process,” said Wiggers.

Nevertheless, the Montana Lottery has not indicated any intention to change course away from the Intralot deal.

Per Angelia Wong, director of the Montana Lottery, it is the agency’s “intention to work with our current vendor.” That said, the lottery’s legal department is currently reviewing the decision.

That decision, while framed as controversial or anticompetitive, is logistically sensible in at least one way: Intralot is already the state’s lottery operator. The company signed a seven-year contract with the Montana Lottery in 2015.

Montana’s government isn’t the only one facing public backlash over the decision to award a no-bid contract to a sports betting operator. In Washington D.C., the city made a similar controversial decision.

Even when there is a bidding process, if a state is looking for a sole-source vendor, there are going to be similar complaints of inequity and conflicts of interest.

Regardless of which service provider Montana ultimately chooses, legal sports betting will be coming to Big Sky Country in the relatively near term. However, reverting to a bidding process would likely delay its launch until early 2020.

Whenever Montana sports betting finally goes live, bettors will be able to wager on sports from anywhere in the state through the use of an official Montana Lottery app.

Additionally, per HB 725, local bars and other licensed retailers will have the opportunity to host self-service betting terminals. These terminals will also be managed by the lottery and its wagering partner.

If you reside in Montana and have any questions or concerns regarding its sports wagering implementation, you can contact the state lottery.

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