Vermont selects sports betting operators, allowing for pre-registration ahead of January launch

By SARAH MEARHOFF

VTDigger

Published: 12-13-2023 11:34 PM

With legal, regulated sports betting on track to launch in Vermont next month, the Scott administration has awarded state contracts to three vendors to host mobile sports wagering platforms.

DraftKings, FanDuel and Fanatics Sportsbook were selected through a competitive bidding process by the Vermont Department of Liquor and Lottery, according to a press release issued by Gov. Phil Scott’s office on Tuesday.

Both DraftKings and FanDuel have opened pre-registration for Vermonters already in preparation for wagering to start in January, spokespeople for the respective companies told VTDigger via email. Fanatics Sportsbook has not as of Tuesday afternoon, vice president of communications Kevin Hennessy told VTDigger via email, but called the Scott Administration’s announcement “exciting.”

The bidding process opened in July, one month after Gov. Phil Scott signed H.127 into law. But the debate over legalizing sports betting in Vermont — and regulating the black market which surely already existed — began years prior. Vermont was the last state in New England to legalize online sports betting.

“I first proposed Vermont legalize sports wagering several years ago, and it’s good to see it come to fruition,” Scott said in Tuesday’s release. “Vermonters and visitors alike will soon be able to access a regulated sports wagering marketplace, which will come with important consumer protections and generate revenue for the State.”

The legal sports betting market is projected to raise roughly $7 million in new revenue for the state in its first year of operation. A key provision of H.127 mandates that part of that money (at least $250,000 to get the program off the ground for the first fiscal year) will go toward state programs to help Vermonters struggling with gambling addiction.

“Like any time we get a new instrument of vice to play with, it’s important to remember that these things were put in front of adults as a recreational resource to use responsibly,” Rep. Matt Birong, D-Vergennes, one of H.127’s chief architects, told VTDigger on Tuesday.

For Birong, addiction is personal. He never struggled with gambling addiction himself, but having experienced alcohol addiction, he said he “understand(s) the dynamics.” That’s why, perhaps counterintuitively, he took up sports betting as a policy issue: He saw a legal market as a revenue source to fund gambling addiction education and recovery resources.

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“(Sports betting) was happening; it was just living in the shadows,” Birong said. “So in my mind, this was an opportunity to restructure how we dealt with problem gambling — because what we were doing previous to (H.127) passing, I thought, was wildly inadequate and underfunded.”