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Sports betting in Vermont isn't legal yet, but offshore betting is a grey area

30th January, 16:35

Lots of people in Vermont are very, very interested in college basketball results. But that interest could have a lot more to do with green than anything else. And we're not talking about UVM.

As of Jan. 30, Google searches of East Tennessee State basketball in Vermont had skyrocketed nearly 5,000% in 24 hours. Same goes for Notre Dame. Previous weeks show similar results for college teams all over the place.

With March Madness just a month away, maybe folks are just getting warmed up for that office pool at work? Could be. But another possibility is that, even though it's illegal to bet on sports in Vermont, it's technically not illegal to bet outside Vermont. Like way outside.

Welcome to offshore sports betting.

In December, Gov. Phil Scott asked the Vermont Legislature to allow sports betting and Keno to increase state revenues, taking advantage of a 2018 Supreme Court ruling that opened the door for states to legalize and tax sports betting.

But as Montpelier debates whether or not to allow it, it looks like fans who want to bet on sports already have a way to do it: The internet and online betting sites that operate completely outside of both state and federal jurisdiction. A quick Google search reveals several offshore site that Vermonters, or anyone, could use to place bets.

"Generally, the notion of jurisdiction means that any crimes within VT statutes prohibit criminal activity that occurs within the confines of the physical delineation of the state," said Skyler Genest, chief of the Office of Compliance and Enforcement with the Vermont Department of Liquor and Lottery.

"There could be some debate as to where the placing of the bet and/or where the bookkeeping occurs, however jurisdiction of the online universe can become quickly nebulous," Genest said.

Laws prohibiting sports betting, like Title 13 VSA § 2151, don't explicitly address "online" betting, wagering or bookkeeping that occurs outside the state and the U.S. (A side note: In true Vermont fashion, the portion of the law that prohibits "bookmaking or pool selling" exempts deer pools during hunting season.)

Another law that forbids online bookkeeping/wagering services within Vermont, Title 13 VSA § 2135, which also prohibits physical machines like slot machines -- and might arguably apply to computer servers within Vermont's borders -- doesn't address things like offshore betting sites.

So, for now, it seems that Vermonters have a way to place bets, regardless of whether it's legalized in the state.

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