MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) – The biggest game in football is right around the corner and millions of Americans are placing their online bets. In Vermont, sports betting remains illegal, but some lawmakers are hoping that a new bill could change that.
“It’s been a long time coming,” said Sen. Dick Sears, D-Bennington County. The Judiciary Committee Chair has been a proponent of online sports betting for years but his most recent gambling bill — co-sponsored with three other lawmakers — still hasn’t gained much traction. “The bill hasn’t been taken up this year in the Senate Economic Development.”
“I think it’s really important that if we want to continue to maintain consistent and sustained tax revenues for the state that we need to really modernize those lottery laws to keep pace with consumer preferences and the evolution of the industry,” said Lottery Commissioner Wendy Knight.
While sports betting remains illegal in the Green Mountain State, observers say it doesn’t stop people from going to adjoining states to place their bets.
“You’ve got to go find the state line. Sometimes you’ve got to drive an extra 10 minutes to find a nice safe space to pull off. You got to make sure your wagers are correct. You got to geolocate. The whole thing can be a real process,” said Chris Connolly of Charlotte.
There are currently more than 30 states, including New Hampshire and New York, that have legalized online sports betting.
But concerns about gambling continue. The Howard Center provides services for problem gamblers. Dan Hall, the director of Howard’s outpatient services says that if online sports betting were to pass, it could exacerbate the need for those services. ”If it would be legal it would probably attract a cohort of people that previously did not gamble. I think, potentially, would be more referrals and if there are more referrals then we would probably need to expand the program,” he said.
The American Gaming Association says millions of Americans will bet on the Super Bowl game, with an estimated $8 billion at stake total. As it stands now, the state of Vermont will get none of that.
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