HELENA — A Helena judge has ruled that the Montana Lottery can not limit sports wagering licenses to only Montana businesses with an alcoholic beverage license.
In an October 28 ruling, Lewis & Clark County District Judge Kathy Seeley said the Montana Lottery Commission acted out of turn when imposing additional limitations beyond what was expressed in the legislation.
“If the Legislature intended to limit sports wagering facilities in this way, the Legislature could have done so,” wrote Seeley.
Seeley added the court would not insert an additional provision that the Legislature omitted.
The ruling stems from a lawsuit filed on behalf of Arete Group, LLC, a Billings investment group. In January they argued the Montana Lottery Commission acted against House Bill 725 that legalized sports betting in Montana.
Attorney Lyndon Schevec, representing Arete Group, told MTN News that he was happy with the ruling and believes justice was done.
“We have great judges here in Montana especially at the district court level and we agree and respect the judge’s decision. At the end of the day justice prevailed in this case,” said Schevec.
In the original lawsuit Arete Group also sought to be immediately granted a sports wagering license. However, Seeley said in her ruling Arete Group was not entitled to receive a license.
Since the ruling last week, Schevec says Arete Group has already reapplied for a sports wagering license with the Montana Lottery.
Montana Lottery says legal Sports Betting through Sports Bet Montana has been performing well despite COVID, with the amount of money bet in state almost doubling since the beginning of September.
As of November 4, $10.2 million has been legally spent in the state since Sports Bet Montana launched earlier this year. $8.9 million has been paid out to bettors, $1.3 million has gone to the gross gaming revenue, and around $556,000 has gone directly to businesses that offer sports betting.
Jennifer McKee, Montana Lottery communication manager, says the court’s ruling was significant and Montana Lottery officials are still reviewing the decision to determine the next step.