Maine Sports Betting Bill Heads to Governor

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The Maine Senate finally passed the sports betting bill, 23-11, late Tuesday night, sending it to the governor to sign into law.

The House, which had advanced LD 585 last week, concurred with a minor amendment shortly after the Senate approved it.

The bill would create exclusive mobile sports betting licenses for Maine’s four tribes, while the state’s casinos and off-track betting parlors would be able to offer retail sports betting.

The bill was approved late Tuesday night, moments before Wednesday – the final day of the 2022 legislative session.

On Friday, the House approved LD 585 with an 81-53 vote, paving the way for Tuesday’s vote in Senate.

Though Gov. Janet Mills’ office didn’t reveal when she would sign the bill, she is likely to do so. Mills had vetoed a sports betting bill in 2020.

Who Gets What Under LD 585?

Under LD 585, the state’s four federally recognized tribes, collectively known as the Wabanaki Nations, would gain exclusive control of mobile sports wagering in the Pine Tree State. In addition, Maine’s two casinos and off-track betting parlors would be able to extend in-person sports betting.

The bill allows for up to 10 facility sports betting licenses.

The original LD 585 would have excluded the state’s commercial gaming entities entirely.

However, Tuesday’s amendment included Oxford Casino, Hollywood Casino, Scarborough Downs, and Hollywood Casino Hotel & Raceway for retail sports betting.

The bill would grant Maliseet, Penobscot, Passamaquoddy, and Mi’kmaq tribes a single mobile sports betting license each. Each tribal applicant would have to pay $200,000 for four years, after which each renewal would cost only $4,000.

Maine would get 10% of adjusted gross sports betting receipts.

Tribes Get Mobile Exclusivity But Not Everything…

Besides enjoying a complete monopoly over mobile wagering, LD 585 also removes state sales tax from specific goods and services on tribal establishments. Now the revenues from those taxes to the tribes, who will also see an exemption from state taxes on profits by tribal members on their reservations.

Earlier Friday, House Majority leader Michelle Dunphy said the bill would perhaps have an immediate impact on tribal prosperity.

The bill is almost what Mills had negotiated with the state’s tribes – most importantly, mobile exclusivity. LD 585 also is a step toward strengthening state-tribe relations.

However, it runs short of a greater tribal sovereignty bill that was approved last week in both chambers.

Why Were Commercial Casinos Without Mobile Licenses?

While the tribes must be enjoying mobile exclusivity, the limited sports betting option did not impress casinos. Maine’s casinos, which have been pushing for years for mobile betting in the state, didn’t immediately respond to the final legislation.

During a committee work session in March, the lawmakers were told online sports betting is expected to make up 85% of the total action in the legalized market in the Pine Tree State.

Maine Gambling Control Board Chair Steven told the media he was a little perplexed by the legislation. He said the tribes were always cut in the prior bills. “The difference now is that the governor decided to grant the tribes a monopoly on online betting as a consolation for her opposition to granting full tribal sovereignty rights.”

He said the governor’s action was made ahead of a contentious election season, adding that the tribes won big while the casinos suffered a pretty big blow.

What’s Next?

The Maine sports betting bill is currently on its way to the governor’s desk. Mills is expected to sign the sports betting bill this time after it reaches her desk from the Appropriation Table where it currently sits.

“The bill is currently sitting on the appropriation table, where the sports betting legislation from the last session went to seemingly die after clearing both the House and Senate last year,” Silver said.

However, he said that LD 585 is likely to pass since this was the governor’s preferred bill.

But, citing the unpredictability of the recent past, Silver added, “nothing is final until the ink is dry.”

2022 is not the first time Maine lawmakers tried to legalize sports betting. The previous measures have consecutively failed in the past three years despite considerable support within the legislature.

Mill, who rejected the sports betting bill in 2020, is expected to sign the sports betting bill this time.



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