(The Center Square) – The race to legalize sports wagering in Vermont during the 2023 legislative cycle continues, as a new panel takes up the bill laying the groundwork for the new entertainment option and revenue source.
The House Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday began its review of House Bill 127 , taking testimony from state officials involved in the logistical details. Several panels have been digging into the legislation in the early months of 2023 – most recently, the Committee on Government Operations.
The committee-level reviews come on the heels of the Sports Wagering Betting Study Committee’s adoption of a 33-page report in December. The document included a number of recommendations, including handing oversight over to the Department of Liquor and Lottery.
At Tuesday’s meeting, Liquor and Lottery Commissioner Wendy Knight doubled down on the view Vermont should bring sports wagering online this year, citing its legalization in a number of neighboring states.
“The goal was to capture revenue,” Knight said. “We know right now we are losing state revenue (to neighboring states).”
Knight said the permissiveness of sports wagering also aims to eradicate illicit practices. Making sports wagering lawful with government oversight, she said, removes the “damaging implications” of unlawful activity.
States across the country have been moving to legalize sports wagering after a 2018 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down a 1992 federal law that had banned most aspects of commercial sports wagering.
While Vermont officials have been looking at ways of tailoring sports wagering in a way that makes the most sense for the state’s government structure – and the population – Knight said much of the foundation already is in place.
“Vermont is not inventing the apparatus,” Knight said. “We have 36 states we can learn from. New Hampshire, in particular, has been very helpful.”
At Tuesday’s meeting, Tucker Anderson with the General Assembly’s Office of Legislative Counsel combed through the draft of HB 127, which includes proposed guidelines for prospective licensed sports wagering operators.
The Sports Wagering Betting Study Committee has proposed awarding licenses to a number of operators – two to six is the current threshold – through a competitive bidding process.
Bidders also would have to furnish a number of pieces of information, including estimates of revenue, the anticipated amount of money that would go to the state through a shared revenue model and the length of time it would take to bring it online.
Through a governing process, there are plans to place parameters around what operators can and cannot do as they roll out their licensed business in Vermont.
Marketing to people under age 21 would be prohibited. Funds also would have to be set aside to assist with gambling addiction support services.
While many of those provisions are boilerplate, as they are in place in other states, Knight cautioned lawmakers not to be too restrictive.
“Vermont does not want to be the only state requiring operators to do something,” she said. “You want to be mindful about what you’re putting in statute.”
The House Ways and Means Committee will take additional testimony from state officials on sports wagering on Wednesday as it continues its review of HB 127.