Three amendments were filed to revive the Maine sports betting bill hours before the current legislative session was set to adjourn Wednesday. The Senate will reportedly extend its session in order to vote on LD 1352 and the amendments.
The last-minute amendments came after several committee hearings, workgroups, and discussions about amendments. But there was no action on sports betting until the final hours of the last day of the session.
As of Tuesday night, the bill had remained with the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee. However, a special session was imminent to address issues including budget and sports betting.
Everything was repeating the nightmare of 2019-20 until Maine sports betting found hope in the last-minute amendments.
What Are the Key Amendments?
The biggest amendment will see the numbers of mobile licenses limited to just three. In the original version, there was no cap on mobile licenses, and the digital platforms were not required to be tethered to land-based gaming locations. Despite earlier discussions in favor of the tethering requirement, the amendment does not look to require tethering.
Other key changes include increasing the licensing fee to $100,000 for two years from $20,000 for the same period proposed in the original draft.
Another change included a clarification regarding Maine college/university sports betting. The clarification allowed bettors to wager on tournaments in which Maine teams are participating but not on games involving the Maine college/university teams.
Under another amendment, Maine sports betting tax revenue will be earmarked for the state’s Harness Racing Commission, the Agricultural Fair Promotion Fund, and the Sire Stakes Fund.
Another amendment sees banning misleading or false advertising targeting those under the age of 21.
Advertising Language Appears to Woo the Governor
The language change involving advertising appears to win the support of an intractable governor. Gov. Janet Mills had sat on a sports betting bill that was approved by the legislature in June 2019.
In Jan. 2020, she vetoed the Maine sports betting bill in part due to her concerns surrounding gambling addiction and advertising to minors.
Now, the most recent changes include an amount – $359,000 – to be earmarked for problem gambling programs.
While rejecting sports betting last year, the Democratic governor wrote in a veto letter: “I remain unconvinced at this time that the majority of the state residents are ready to legalize, support, and promote betting on the competitive athletic event.”
Many lawmakers disagreed, with Senate overriding the veto. But Maine sports betting could not become a reality in 2020 due to lack of support in the House.
Will Governor Sign Sports Betting Bill This Time?
There are no guarantees that Mills will act any different this time. However, lawmakers are expected to work out details in a special session this summer in hope that the governor will not again leave the bill on her desk unattended for months.
Even the best scenario – consider the legislature passes the bill in summer session and Mills signs off on it quickly – will not see Maine sports betting launch before the end of this year.
How Have We Reached Here?
Maine lawmakers filed four sports betting bills this session. Three were killed during a committee meeting earlier this month.
A key issue was whether or not to require mobile platforms to be tethered to land-based casinos or horse racetracks.
LB 1352 – the sole surviving bill – did initially allow standalone digital licenses. But the casino lobby pushed for the tethering requirement. But an amendment to the bill never happened.
According to sources, Sen. Louis Luchini-backed bill has wide support from stakeholders – including many around the governor. However, Luchini’s opposition to the tethering model has been one of the possible reasons for the delay.