Will Maine Governor Sign Sports Betting Bill This Time?

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Maine Legislature has finally approved a sports betting bill disowned by its own sponsor and rejected earlier by the governor.

On Friday, Gov. Janet Mills received LD 1352, which the state’s Senate approved in a special session against the wishes of Sen. Louis Luchini – who sponsored the bill.

The sponsor was unhappy with the amendment clause that will tether online platforms to existing gambling operators in the state. Luchini had originally backed the bill – repeating his last year’s effort – to bring online sports betting through standalone digital platforms.

The curious case of Maine sports betting is yet to unfold as the legislative piece awaits the signature of a governor, who had killed the same measure last year.

If Mills signs the bill, statewide mobile betting will be available in Maine.

What Happened on Thursday & Friday?

Maine sports betting bill revived in a special session on Thursday. After Luchini spoke out against his own bill and House failed to concur an amended version of LD 1352 on Thursday, the Senate concurred with the bill on Friday.

The draft then was sent to the governor for the second time since 2019.

On Thursday, the upper chamber amended the bill in a heated session before the House amended it again late in the day, and returned the bill to the Senate for concurrence.

What Did Luchini Say?

Luchini is against requiring online platforms to be tethered to land-based facilities. The approved measure binds mobile operators to partner with local gambling facilities like casinos and OTBs to procure a license.

But Luchini thinks it anti-competitive, and bad for the constituents. He said tethering is being driven by the casino lobby. “It’s bad for our constituency. It’s anti-competitive.”

 The sponsor-turned-attacker of the bill said the eventual legislation would make “the casinos the gatekeepers of who will be able to operate in Maine,” and the additional market access fees mean worse odds to the residents.

Earlier, Luchini appeared to realize the fact that tethering was the only way to keep the bill going to the finishing line. But on Thursday, the senator reversed his tacit approval, lashing out at the amendment.

While Luchini argued against his own bill, his colleagues approved the amended bill, by 23-12.

On Wednesday, three amendments were filed to LD 1352. Besides adding tethering for mobile betting licenses, another key amendment raised license fees to $100,000 for two years.

What Can We Expect This Time?

Gov. Mills, who rejected the sports betting bill in Jan. 2020, has a few options. She can either sign it or veto it. According to the state’s law, the governor has ten days when the legislature is in session to sign or veto a bill. In neither of the cases, the bill automatically becomes a law.

If the legislature adjourns for the year, the legislative proposal does not become a law, and if a special session is underway – like in this case – the governor must veto by the fourth day or the bill becomes law.

Mills had expressed some anti-gambling concerns while rejecting Maine sports betting last time. However, the 2021 bill seems to address those provisions regarding responsible gaming and advertising.

Luchini said he had been working closely with the Mill’s office on the latest bill. Unlike Luchini’s last year’s bill, LD 1352 is supported by most stakeholders including casinos, tracks, and OTBs.

In 2020, Penn National was a vocal opponent of Luchini’s proposal as it did not contain a tethering clause.

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