Maine Sports Betting Market Launch Ready

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Maine is set to launch its online sports betting market on Friday, November 3, 2023, following more than 18 months of regulatory work.

The state passed sports betting legalization in 2022 as part of a larger tribal sovereignty package. Early in October, the Maine Gambling Control Unit (MGCU) sent the final set of rules to the state Attorney General’s office for approval, which was then enacted. Now it was announced that bettors in the state can begin account registration and deposits starting Wednesday, November 1, 2023.

The launch of Maine online sports betting is a significant milestone for the state. Alongside Maine retail sportsbooks, the market is expected to generate $3 million to $5 million in the first year alone.

From Friday this week, online sportsbooks DraftKings and Caesars Sportsbook will be ready and open for bets, with some expansion expected in the future. The market is currently limited, as several large operators were not happy with the expected ruleset and revenue sharing with state tribes.

On the retail front, agreements have been more forthcoming. BetMGM, Penn Entertainment, Caesars, and Churchill Downs all have plans for retail betting in the state. That includes at Maine casino venues in Bangor and Oxford, as well as off-track horse race betting venues in Waterville, Sanford, Bangor and Lewiston.

Operators Now Ready, DraftKings Last Minute Addition

Caesars has partnered with three of the four tribes that control online access in the state. DraftKings has also entered an agreement with the state’s fourth tribe, the Passamaquoddy Tribe, which was also announced this week.

The Sports Betting Alliance, a lobbying group that represents DraftKings, BetMGM, Fanatics, and FanDuel, had previously stated that its members would not participate in the online market.

Under Maine’s agreement with its tribal partners, tribes get a standard of 50% of the revenue from any online sportsbook, with 10% of revenues going to the state. Caesars Sportsbook has negotiated a better deal, at a reported 40% of revenues for the tribes with state approval. However, that proved controversial with the other big national operators.

The launch of sports betting in Maine has also had an impact on the daily fantasy sports (DFS) market in the state. The MGCU recently shut down the DFS pick’em products in the state, following an investigation that resulted in a cease-and-desist order and a $400,000 fine for Underdog.

The Regulatory Framework and Its Challenges

The regulatory framework for sports betting in Maine has been a long and challenging process. The MGCU has spent more than 18 months developing the regulations for the market. In 2022, Maine Gambling Control Unit head Milton Champion said that the market might not even launch until 2024.

However, with the first set of proposed rules being revealed in January, and approved for submission in July, things ended up on track for 2023.

The initial draft included strict advertising rules that would have required MGCU approval of advertisements. However, industry pushback caused the MGCU to lighten the restrictions. The final regulations do not allow operators to advertise promotional offers and prohibit the use of celebrities in advertisements.

During this period, Champion was suspended for a week over inappropriate social media posts. In the end, though, it appears this has not delayed the long-awaited market launch.

“Maine certainly took, let’s say, a cautious route to launch. I think the market has certainly developed nationally around them,” said gambling regulation expert and Oklahoma State University professor John Holden, speaking to Maine outlet the Portland Press Herald.

“That’s probably kudos to Maine’s regulators that they are being cautious. They aren’t taking pressure from the industry or what other states are doing in how they’re moving forward.”

Now, from Friday, Maine’s sports bettors (aged 21 and up) will be able to legally wager on various sports, including NFL football betting, golf, MMA and dozens of other markets. However, college games involving teams from Maine-based schools will not be eligible for wagers.

Something that states with the rule have been strict on enforcing, as Massachusetts retail sportsbooks recently found out. Earlier in 2023, all three retail betting venues in Maine’s neighboring state were fined by state regulators for taking bets on college games.

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