The biggest sports betting day in the U.S. is Super Bowl Sunday, when an estimated $8 billion will be wagered on the big game.

Here in Montana, sports betting is actually handled by the Montana Lottery, so KGVO reached out to Montana Lottery Director Scott Sales, who provided some background on sports betting in the state.

“It was actually March of 2020 that the rollout for Montana Sports happened,” he said. “Unfortunately that coincided with the lockdown. So, right when the lottery was getting ready to launch and had launched, all bars were shut and all the sporting events were canceled. However, for the year ending, June 30 of 2021 we did about $42 million in sales, and that was pretty organic because we didn't do a lot of advertising. So to do $42 million worth of sales in the first year is pretty impressive from my standpoint.”

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As far as payouts go, Sales provided these numbers.

“For the first 22 months, we've averaged close to about 85 percent, or just shy of 85 percent. We've never have hit that 80% payout, which was the goal from the get go, so in all honesty, I would just say for lack of splitting hairs, for every dollar bet we're paying out 85 cents on the dollar.”

Sales said the state legislature helped to provide some safeguards against problem gambling.

“We don't allow individuals to use their credit cards to buy either lottery tickets, or to place a bet on their favorite sports team,” he said. “All bets are limited in sports gambling to a maximum of 250 bucks. So you can't bet 500 or 1000 on an individual ticket.”

Sales said there is a privately funded organization that problem gamblers can contact for help.

“For people that either have a loved one, or they've self identified that they have an issue in this area, there is a nonprofit organization that is funded, not with tax dollars, but with private dollars, from people that make their living in this arena,” he said. “It's called the Montana Council on Problem Gambling. If you just type in Montana Problem Gambling their website comes up.”

The website states that ‘problem gambling has often been described as a “hidden addiction.” It doesn’t have the outward signs that are observed with other addictions like alcohol or drugs. It also hasn’t received the same attention as those addictive behaviors.’

Click here for access to the site.

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