Billings, MT gambling history can definitely be said to follow a pattern shared by the other Western States.

Early settlers introduced gambling games to the town, which was hugely popular in the 1800s, especially lottery (raffle) type games. However, this lead to a crackdown and 1910 saw a complete ban on gambling. The Great Depression followed, followed by a slow re-build of operations, leading to today’s wide choices.

Gambling was wild by the time the constitution was finalized in Montana. Lotteries at that time were more like raffles, very much crooked. Laws came in during the early 20th century to prohibit pretty much everything. This created a very broad definition which would make future legislation more difficult.

Montana is one of only four states which were grandfathered exemptions to the 1992 federal PASPA Act that banned betting on pro sports. The others are Oregon, Delaware and Nevada. This right is not used, with only pari-mutuel horse racing bets possible.

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There are three catch-all clauses in the Billings sports betting legislation which gambling fans need to be aware of. These are the general definition, which is a general ‘betting on any game with a chance element’ definition, designed to catch everything in one go. Here is the Montana Statue wording defining gambling:

“Gambling” or “gambling activity” means risking any money, credit, deposit, check, property, or other thing of value for a gain that is contingent in whole or in part upon lot, chance, or the operation of a gambling device or gambling enterprise.  (23-5-112)

So will Billings legalize sports betting? In 2019, the State Legislature introduced 2 bills related to sports wagering: HB 475, to allow pari-mutuel sports betting under the board of horseracing; and SB 25, to generally revise gambling laws. In fact, Montana became the first state to do so under the new bill.

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