Disclaimer: The views expressed in this column are solely those of the columnist and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Bennington Banner.
With the news that online sports betting in New York is set to go live on Saturday, it’s time for the Green Mountain State to legalize the activity.
Doing so will give the state added funds, potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars or more each year, to divvy out where it’s needed most.
When the Supreme Court overturned the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act in May 2018, sports betting was no longer illegal at the federal level. The decision gave each state the power to dictate whether or not they would allow sports wagering.
Since that ruling, 25 states and the District of Columbia have legalized sports wagering in some form. Vermont is not one of them.
In total, more than $87 billion has been legally wagered, creating more than $871 million in tax revenue as of Thursday, according to Legal Sports Report.
The northeast is known for its affinity for sports, with Boston and New York City being two of the largest sports markets in the country. New York has already legalized sports wagering in person, while Connecticut and New Hampshire have also cashed in.
While Vermont sees no money come through, neighboring New Hampshire has generated more than $29 million since going live in December of 2019.
A more fair comparison may be Wyoming, whose population better mirrors Vermont’s.
Wyoming sports wagering went live in an online-only format on Sept. 1 of last year. Between that date and Nov. 30, Wyoming generated $90,122 in taxes. December’s data has not yet been published.
The Cowboy State is a good model of how sports betting could work in Vermont. No casinos are needed. Online sportsbooks like DraftKings and FanDuel offer easy-to-use apps, and the interest is there, even in rural areas.
There is a market in Vermont. As a sports reporter in Bennington County, I’ve had casual conversations with numerous people involved in the sports world who would love to bet on games: AD’s, coaches and fans alike. Go to a local sports bar during an NFL Sunday and you’ll see just how many passionate sports fans Vermont has.
The bottom line is that wagering on sports is taking place whether it is legal or not. Right now, Vermont is missing out on added tax revenue.
I’ve experienced it first hand.
While covering a local soccer game this fall, a longer than usual halftime prompted one ref to get in on some action.
It happened to be a Thursday night, meaning there was an NFL game getting ready for kickoff. The ref looked at the odds, took a couple seconds to ponder, and with one text placed his bet.
“(Philadelphia) Eagles plus-seven,” he announced.
“Wait, how’d you place that? I thought it wasn’t legal here,” I asked.
“It is if you have a bookie,” he chuckled.
That’s the reality of the situation. Vermont Governor Phil Scott knows it to be true. He released the following statement after signing act H.313, which launched a study on sports betting, on June 8 of last year.
“For years, I have also proposed that Vermont legalize and regulate sports betting, as more than a dozen states have done. We know thousands of Vermonters are already participating in this activity, and the state should take steps to ensure fairness and safety,” Scott said.
Every day that passes is a missed opportunity. How long until Vermont wakes up and realizes it’s missing out on this low hanging fruit? Over/under another year? Place your bets…