Maine Sports Betting Bill Heads to Legislature

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Maine crossed a critical barrier this Wednesday when a legislative committee passed a bill that could finally bring sports betting in the state. The Judiciary Committee managed to approve Gov. Janet Mills’ proposal by an 8-6 vote as a part of a greater multi-bill tribal sovereignty package. Some of those who voted against the measure said they could support it with some changes.

The bill now heads to the full legislature.

The amended bill creates four digital licenses for the state’s federally recognized tribes. Wednesday’s amendment added retail sports betting licenses for commercial operators in Maine.

Another sports betting bill from the previous years remains on the Special Appropriation Table.

What Happened to the Previous Bill?

Last year, Maine lawmakers approved LD 1352, which would regulate sports betting in the state, allowing the tribes and commercial gaming entities to offer mobile betting. That bill’s fate remained undecided as the 2021 session adjourned in July. However, that bill is still alive, though it is not likely to receive the governor’s nod.

Though LD 585 has the governor’s support, it appears to have complicated the efforts to bring legalized sports betting in the Pine Tree State. Some lawmakers voting against the governor’s proposal said Wednesday they would support it if LD 1352 replaced LD 585’s current gaming language.

However, the supporters of the latest measure see hope in LD 585, believing the changes can be made at a later stage.

One of the supporters of LD 585, Rep. Steve Moriarty said he had lost confidence in the last year’s bill because it has lingered unattended and remained unresolved.

Why LD 585 is Different?

Things remained unresolved as of March 8, when sports betting appeared to gain some traction in Maine. The new plan is more likely to see the light of the day mainly because it is backed by the governor, who has previously opposed sports betting. However, she has emphatically indicated an interest in LD 585, which is aimed at improving communication between the state and tribe.

Governor’s plan is in response to a crucial tribal sovereignty bill, which would empower the tribes to decide what happens on their land, including taxes and some law enforcement issues.

Both the tribes and Gov. Janet Mill back the legislative package – an outcome of negotiations between the stakeholders.

Mills vetoed a sports betting bill last year, which means the change of the governor’s heart could bring sports betting in Maine this time.

What Amendments Were Added on Wednesday?

Maine’s off-track betting establishments received in-person sports betting licenses in the original bill.

Wednesday’s amendment expanded licensing criteria, covering the state’s two horse racing tracks. In addition, two extra licenses were reserved for future OTBs or race tracks.

Maine’s two casinos and the Sports Betting Alliance testified against the sports betting part of the bill last month. The legislative staff said sports betting is not indispensable to the bill’s passage.

However, several lawmakers raised concerns regarding the expansion of gaming while ignoring existing stakeholders. In the Wednesday session, Hollywood Casino lobbyist Chris Jackson also advocated for a mobile license.

According to Maine Gambling Control Unit Executive Director Milton Champion, the Pine Tree State could raise up to $6.9 million yearly from sports betting. However, it would be far less than the casinos that extract $60 million annually in the state revenue.

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