Legal sports betting is ready to assert itself for the second time in Maine a year after the last attempt was stifled by Gov. Janet Mills. Again, it’s Sen. Louis Luchini who filed Senate Bill 1352 to do what its predecessor bill couldn’t a year ago: legalize sports betting in the state. Last year’s failed bill is near identical to the latest legislative push. However, considering the pandemic-led economic downturn which has induced states to extract from as many industries as they can, better luck can be associated with SB 1352 this time.
What Happened in 2020?
Sen, Luchini was the prime mover of the sports betting bill that made its way to the governor’s table in February 2020 after lawmakers approved Maine sports betting in late 2019. The bill received bipartisan support from two-thirds of the Maine Senate and the majority of the state’s House last session before the Democratic governor vetoed it after delaying it for months.
Adding insult to injury was the response from the governor, who explained the bizarre reason for vetoing sports betting to the dumbstruck legislature, saying the people of Maine were not ready for sports betting: “I remain unconvinced that the majority of Maine people are prepared to legalize, support, endorse and promote betting.” The governor raised unjustified concerns like betting extended to schools and local elections. When she felt her veto could be overridden, Mills successfully lobbied lawmakers to sustain her rejection.
What is New in the 2021 Maine Sports Betting Bill?
In fact, nothing in SB 1352 is much different from the sports betting bill vetoed by the Maine governor last year. Mobile sports betting licenses would be allowed to operate independently as they are not required to partner with a local casino. SB 1352 calls for a $20,000 license fee and 10% tax on gross gaming revenue (GGR).
However, whether the bill will receive support from the state’s two casinos is yet to be seen. It was not Maine people who benefited from killing a bill in 2020, as they would find other ways to place wagers either by crossing the state or crossing law through illegal betting. Instead, Mill’s veto appears to benefit the owners of the two casinos in Maine: Penn National and Churchill Downs. Legalization would mean they would be missing out on a significant proportion of revenue.
After her veto last year, Penn National said it supported Maine sports betting only for those who had “invested hundreds of millions of dollars in the state” and alluded to the New Jersey sports betting model of mobile skins being attached to casinos. When asked to respond if they support Maine sports betting this time around, both Penn and Churchill Downs declined to comment.