By Dave Fidlin | The Center Square
Figuring out if sports wagering in Vermont will be retail or online only is key to the next steps for bringing the profitable venture to legalization.
Tuesday’s Sports Betting Study Committee meeting included meaningful input, including mixing in lessons from the recent legalization of marijuana. Wendy Knight, who chairs the study committee, said the format is a looming question to grapple with at upcoming meetings.
“We have not yet decided whether to recommend only online gaming, retail or both,” Knight said. “I think those questions need to be addressed first before we can really understand whether we want to recommend an existing administrative structure or a new administrative structure.”
The Legislature convenes in January.
James Pepper, chairman of the Cannabis Control Board, discussed how the entity in recent years has waded into the legalization of the drug after the Vermont Legislature passed the bill allowing its use for recreation.
Knight said there could be parallels between the legalization of cannabis and sports betting within the state, though there are a number of stark differences as well.
“Sports betting differs from cannabis in that cannabis is a controlled substance,” Knight said. “It’s also federally illegal. That’s not the case for sports betting.”
Pepper at the recent meeting outlined how the commission has addressed cannabis regulation, particularly against the backdrop of what he referred to as a “legacy market” of people who had illicitly sold the drug.
“We’re in a constant education mode. We have an education-first culture of compliance in our enforcement division,” Pepper said. “We’re spending as much time as we can communicating that guidance out into the field and meeting people where they’re at so they understand our regulations and comply with them.”
State Sen. Dick Sears, D-Bennington, said one difference between cannabis and sports betting was top-of-mind for him as he considered legalizing the latter in the upcoming legislative session.
“In the sports betting world, there are big players,” said Sears, who serves on the study committee. “One of my concerns is that when we go down the route of legalizing sports betting in Vermont, that we not limit it to one player or one company – that we have a variety of companies available.”
Legalizing cannabis in Vermont was touted as a mechanism to enhance local economies and give local growers, as entrepreneurs, a lever to make a living in their communities.
“It might not be small, craft groups, but there might be some locals that want to participate,” Sears said of his hope for Vermont residents who could take part in what likely will be a competitive bidding process for sports betting.
Tucker Anderson, who works in the state’s Office of Legislative Counsel, also was on hand at Tuesday’s study committee meeting.
In the early stage of considering sports betting legalization, Anderson said there are a number of behind-the-scenes considerations the panel needs to take into account, including the oversight structure meaning scope of responsibilities and duties.