Two Montana Tribes’ Sports Betting Rights Granted Under New Compact

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The Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes of the Fort Peck Indian Reservation are now approved to offer retail sports betting in Montana, nearly five years after 2019’s legalization.

Currently, only the Montana Lottery offers sports betting in the state, done through its service with Greek gambling tech developer Intralot.

The two Tribes will now be able to launch a retail sportsbook at their Silver Wolf Casino in Wolf Point. The two Tribes operate five other Montana casinos in the far northern region of the state, near the border with Canada.

However, neither group has announced a full launch date for what would be the first Tribal sportsbook in the state.

Seven other federally recognized Tribes do run casinos in Montana. But none have applied for a sports betting license before this.

Montana’s Betting Landscape

The Bureau of Indian Affairs approved the Tribes’ compact on Wednesday, January 29, 2024. It was signed off on by Ms. Paula L. Hart, Director, Office of Indian Gaming, Office of the Assistant Secretary—Indian Affairs, Washington, DC.

Sports betting was legalized in the state in 2019 by then-Governor Steve Bullock.

Prior to this successful application from the Assiniboine and the Sioux, the Montana Lottery was the sole licensed sports betting operation in the state.

It offered online betting through its Sports Bet Montana app since 2020, as well as 500 sports betting kiosks in various retail locations.

The app has received mixed reviews from Montana bettors. Intralot faced similar problems in Washington D.C., where it runs the D.C. lottery’s sports betting operation.

However, Intralot has performed so poorly there, it has made D.C. into only U.S. market where online betting is outperformed by retail sportsbooks.

In Montana, Intralot has been the only horse in town, and was doing alright off it. In 2022, it closed a $44.9 million handle, which grew to $59 million in 2024.

Lottery officials want to see Intralot boost that to $100 million in the next two years, although it will have at least one new competitor in the form of the as-yet-unspecified sportsbook at Silver Wolf.

Taxes from sports betting equates to 8.5% of Sports Bet Montana’s revenues, although the exact data is not published by regulator the Montana Lottery Commission.

It has said that since launching in 2020, sports betting taxes have provided at least $1.5 million for a STEM scholarship program, as well as more for the state’s general fund.

Silver Wolf Casino

Being in a remote and sparsely populated area – Wolf Point’s population is 2,517 – the actual drain on lottery-backed sports betting customers might be small.

The Fort Peck Reservation is some four to five hours drive away from the state’s largest city, Billings.

Silver Wolf Casino has some 50 slot games, as well as a dozen video poker, bingo, and keno machines. It is open regularly all day until late throughout the year. It also offers a full-service restaurant facility for hungry patrons.

The casino has yet to announce how or with whom it will operate its sports betting product.

Other nearby state markets, including sports betting in North Dakota and Wyoming, offer various national operators. But none have seen Tribal sportsbooks – so it will be interesting to see what route the Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes take.

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