Maine Becomes First State to Legalize Sports Betting in 2022

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Maine has become the first state to legalize sports betting in 2022 after the governor signed into law a bill to that effect on Monday.

LD 585 would give exclusive mobile sports betting to the state’s four tribes.

The Maine sports betting law bars the state’s two land-based casinos – owned by Churchill Downs Inc. and Penn National Gaming – from offering online sports betting. However, the casinos can offer in-person sports wagering.

The law goes into effect 90 days after the legislative session ends.

Maine lawmakers approved LD 585 in the waning hours of April 19 – a day before the final day of the 2022 legislative session.

It comes roughly a year after another sports wagering bill had cleared both chambers last year before it was left unattended on the appropriations table. LD 1352 would have allowed mobile sports betting to both tribes and commercial operators.

The successful bill was the culmination of the governor’s efforts to bring about a bittersweet compromise with the state’s Native American tribes.

“Most Significant Tribal Bill in Decades”

Mills hailed the new law as the most significant tribal bill in decades, saying it provides “meaningful economic opportunities” for the Wabanaki Nations – a collective term for the state’s tribes.

The governor added that LD 585 would incentivize investment in tribal communities, besides formalizing a collaboration process on a policy that sets the foundation for a deeper relationship in the future.

The Wabanaki Nations or Confederacy will use the revenue from mobile sports betting to fund education, healthcare, and infrastructure projects. The tribes will also be able to partner with mobile operators such as FanDuel, DraftKings, and BetMGM.

LD 585 almost mirrors what the governor had negotiated with the state’s tribes, though it runs short of a greater tribal sovereignty bill that the Wabanaki Nations had called for.

What’s Next?

The Maine sports betting law, which becomes effective in 90 days, does not give a launch date. Ideally, sports betting could start in the Pine Tree State as early as July. However, it looks unlikely that the Maine Gambling Control Unit could prepare rules by the NFL season.

The Maine bettors have a more realistic chance to see legal betting on the Super Bowl.

With little gaming experience, the Wabanaki Tribes have yet to decide whether they would like to partner with major operators or create their own mobile platforms.

There are an additional 10 retail licenses for casinos, racetracks, and off-track wagering facilities.

Sports betting revenue will be taxed at 10% under the law. Mobile licenses will be charged $200,000 for a period of four years, and a retail license for the same period is only $4,000.

How Have We Reached Here?

2022 is not the first time Maine lawmakers tried to legalize sports betting. Efforts had been made immediately after the Supreme Court struck down the PASPA in May 2018. However, despite considerable support in the legislature, Maine sports betting took years to reach the finishing line.

LD 585 is a complete turnaround from a competitive sports betting bill that was legalized by both chambers in 2019.

Mills vetoed that bill in 2020. Even though the Maine legislature approved another open and competitive bill in 2021, the Democratic governor used sports betting as a political tool to negotiate with the state’s tribes.

Maine’s tribes don’t enjoy the same sort of sovereignty their counterparts enjoy in the other parts of the country. Mills did not sign a bill that would have granted the tribes that sovereignty. Instead, she offered them exclusive mobile betting.

The Wabanaki Nations – Maliseet, Penobscot, Passamaquoddy, and Mi’kmaq – said in a statement that the long-term goal continues to be full sovereignty.

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