Maine Legislature to Vote on Rival Sports Betting Bills This Week
The Maine Legislature must agree on a sports betting bill by April 20 to give legalized sports betting a chance this year. The state’s House and Senate advanced two rival bills earlier this week.
The House approved the proposal last month– backed by the governor – that would give exclusive mobile betting rights to the state tribes. However, the rival measure advanced the following day in Senate would extend online betting to the state’s casinos.
The state legislature adjourns on April 20.
What Happened on Thursday & Friday?
The Maine Senate advanced Friday a historic proposal that would ultimately allow the state tribes to have the same rights guaranteed to all the other recognized tribes in the US.
The Senate action, made without debate, came a day after House members approved the bill to update the state’s compact with its Wabanaki tribes. The governor-led measure passed in the lower chamber would bring sports betting in the Pine Tree State and grant exclusive rights to conduct mobile betting to the state’s indigenous tribes.
More votes are required.
The two measures came this week as Maine lawmakers changed gears in hopes of adjourning next week.
What’s the Governor’s Plan?
Gov. Janet Mill’s plan to regulate mobile sports betting under the state’s native tribes is on a collision course with a rival plan by Senate to cut casinos in on the action.
The House plan – which reflects the governor’s – would grant the Wabanaki tribes four mobile sports betting licenses, besides increasing the tribal court powers.
Maine’s two casino operators and harness racing tracks would also be allowed to offer in-person sports betting under the governor’s plan, which would not expand the more lucrative mobile option.
The House proposal introduced by Gov. Janet Mills is a compromise bill aimed at expanding the rights of Maine tribes. While Mill collaborated with the tribal leaders to bring sports betting, she does not support a broader tribal sovereignty bill that cleared both the chamber this week.
Besides extending the mobile wagering rights, the compromise would change the tax arrangement between the tribes and state to encourage increased collaboration.
Governor’s compromise bill faces a Senate vote next week.
What Do Tribes Say?
Tribal leaders say they support the mobile sports betting bill but don’t see it as a substitute for a broader sovereignty bill. A broader sovereignty bill would rewrite the 1980 settlement limiting the rights of the tribes.
The compromise bill followed after negotiations between the governor and the Wabanaki tribes stalled over the more inclusive sovereignty bill that would overhaul a 40-year settlement act.
The tribes believe the 1980 agreement has excluded them from having changes in federal law that have benefitted over 500 other tribes across the nation.
The sovereignty bill has the support of a majority of lawmakers. However, it did not get the required House support to overcome a possible gubernatorial veto.
The House proposal is opposed by two casino operators, who want a share in the more lucrative mobile betting business. On Friday, Sen. Joe Baldacci unveiled an alternative bill that would extend mobile sports betting to those two casinos and the tribes.
Both measures will come up during the Senate debate next week.
Baldacci said Thursday the amendment would incorporate the two measures into one bill already approved by the Legislature.
Baldacci said his amendment would ensure the native tribes would get 6% of the total adjusted gross mobile betting receipts, which he believed would be somewhere between $2 and $3 million annually.
For either measure to pass, both House and Senate must approve the same bill by April 20 – the final day of the 2022 legislative session.
It is yet to see if the governor would sign any amended version that doesn’t allow tribes 100% control.