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Vermont sports betting investigation prompts legalization push

Vermont gambling news

Sports betting in Vermont is illegal at the moment; however, due to a recently launched underground bookmaking investigation, the Vermont legislature is reviewing the possibility of making the practice legitimate. The interest of Vermont lawmakers was reportedly piqued after viewing projections highlighting the millions in potential taxable revenue from sports wagering.

An inquiry into the alleged unlawful sports betting network was carried out by the Vermont Department of Liquor and Lottery. The results showed that the unregulated operation derived tens of thousands of dollars when customers played through underground bookies.

The commissioner of Liquor and Lottery, Wendy Knight, said, “Right now, we are investigating an illegal gambling operation in Vermont where the players have lost tens of thousands of dollars. That wouldn’t have in a regulated sports betting market.”

Talks on making sports betting legal have been active since May 2018, when the US Supreme Court removed the federal ban on single-game wagering in locations outside Nevada. Despite neighboring states – namely New York and New Hampshire – opting to regulate sports betting, the practice remains illegal in Vermont.

Previous proposals to legalize wagering on sports were put on hold by the State House; however, the renewed interest in it has led lawmakers to begin deciding on a tax structure and fees as well as the proper regulations to set up. The Liquor and Lottery department also revealed its intention to include reasonable age limits, as well as licensing operators and limit the number and amount of bets a person can place. 

Senator Kesha Ram Hinsdale of Chittenden County (D) said, “Different models yield different favorability with the industry, with my colleagues, and with the public.”

Vermont currently houses just fewer than 644,000 people and, after Wyoming, is the least-populated state in the US. The state does not have any professional sports teams but has a large group of residents referred to as ‘flatlanders’. The term refers to a group of people who migrated north from locations like Boston and its northeast counterparts. They usually bring their sports interests to Vermont, the teams in Boston in particular. 

Besides the Liquor and Lottery department’s investigation into the alleged thriving underground world of sports betting, the nonpartisan Joint Fiscal Office of the legislature just turned in information on how much the state stood to benefit financially if they made sports wagering legal. These two reasons worked hand-in-hand to persuade lawmakers to consider legalizing the activity. 

According to the 180-page report turned in by the Joint Fiscal Office, Vermont could earn between $2 million and $10 million in revenue within a year via legalized sports wagering. Conditions like the tax imposed on the gross profit of the activity and the brand of collegiate and professional affairs authorized would all factor into the tax range benefit.

The report concluded by saying that legalizing sports betting would be in the best interest of Vermont. This would enable the transfer of the dollars spent on betting illegally using offshore methods or underground bookies to a fully regulated industry. Legalizing the activity will also reportedly curb the move of Vermonters to other states where sports wagering is regulated and easily accessible. 

Some of the state’s top officials admonished Vermont to resist the supposed benefits sports betting legalization would bring. According to them, it was safer to hold off on all significant decisions until sufficient safeguards were put in place to stop the activity from posing any serious harm to the public. 

Representative Tom Stevens of Waterbury (D) said, “This is a social proposition that we have to take very seriously.”

The outgoing chair of the Senate Committee on Economic Development, Housing and General Affairs, Senator Micheal Sirotkin of Chittenden County (D), seemed to have the same views as Steven.

He said, “Whether it’s alcohol or marijuana or gambling, some people are more skittish than others.” 

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