Senate committee begins its review of sports wagering bill

By Dave Fidlin | The Center Square

As one chamber of the Vermont General Assembly signs off on a sports gambling bill, the second is taking the baton in the race to legalize it and put in place a new revenue source this legislative session.

The Senate Committee on Economic Development, Housing, and General Affairs resumed its ongoing discussion of the issue on Friday. During the brief revisit, panelists hashed over House Bill 127, which passed in that chamber and is now in the hands of the Senate.

Tucker Anderson of the General Assembly’s Office of Legislative Counsel combed through some of the provisions the House passed into HB127 and what they could mean for the companion legislation in Senate Bill 105.

The House-adopted version of the bill includes several provisions that have been introduced throughout the amendments that have been incorporated during committee meetings and on the legislative floor.

“There is a 20% minimum revenue share built into HB127 now,” Anderson said, pointing to one example of the changes incorporated during his discussion with the Senate committee.

While some elements of HB127 are Vermont-specific, others are borrowed from the playbooks of states that have already legalized sports wagering.

A study committee had been meeting last year to examine the pros and cons of bringing sports gambling to Vermont. A finalized report submitted in late 2022 recommended the prohibition of credit cards — a stipulation that was installed and survived all markups of HB127.

State Sen. Kesha Ram Hinsdale, D-Chittenden, is chairwoman of the Committee on Economic Development, Housing, and General Affairs. She said she was pleased to see the credit card ban remain intact.

“When we talk about problem gambling, that’s one thing,” Hinsdale said, referencing concerns of credit card abuse from people susceptible to gambling addiction.

Anderson said the finalized version of HB127 also sets new dollar figures for a sports wagering fund that would create a program for assisting agencies addressing gambling addiction.

“The program is put in place to give licensed counselors from all of the various networks to make sure there’s education and awareness of the resources that are available,” Anderson said.

HB127 calls for a $250,000 contribution to the fund in Vermont’s fiscal year 2024 budget and an additional allocation of $500,000 in the FY 2025 budget.

Since HB127 was not adopted until late Thursday evening, the marked-up version was not published as of the Senate committee’s Friday meeting.

“We don’t have possession of the bill yet, so we’ll walk through it (at a later date), and we’ll look at the witness list,” Hinsdale said.

Once the committee begins its deep dive into sports gambling, Hinsdale said some of the same witnesses could be called up to provide testimony before the panel.

Image courtesy of Public domain

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