Maine Debates Two New Sports Betting Bills

Senate President Troy Jackson has introduced two new sports betting bills for committee approval bringing the total proposed wagering measures during the current session to seven.

The two bills are very different as the first by Jackson would create a free market for gambling in the state with online and brick-and-mortar legalization.

Sen. Jackson’s second bill would make it necessary for operators to have a physical sportsbook location before they could offer online betting.

Jackson has previously stated that he wants no gambling allowed on the state’s collegiate, minor league and high school sports teams with any approved bill.

After Sen. Jackson’s bills were introduced to the committee, the Executive Director of Maine’s Gambling Control Board, Milton Champion, addressed the group of lawmakers about the abundance of new measures.

Champion, seeking clarity, has been an advocate for the original sports betting proposal made in January.

Early proposals by lawmakers included oversight by Champion’s Maine Gambling Control Board.

“(The first bill) has many of the directions and resolves that the regulatory agencies such as the Gambling Control Unit could work with to effectively, efficiently, and consistently regulate sports betting in Maine,” said Champion.

Lobbyists for Maine’s casinos have been meeting with legislators in recent months hoping to spark a compromise that would allow the gaming industry to benefit from any sports betting law.

Recently, the publicity director for Scarborough Downs, Michael Sweeney, told lawmakers, “This is an opportunity for industries that are home-grown, locally based, small mom-and-pop businesses to grow and thrive.”

Champion echoed Sweeney’s statement to the committee, adding that keeping money away from neighboring states that offer sports gambling is vital to the health of the state’s economy.

“There are only so many discretionary funds available, in my view, indicates that New England has or is very close to reaching its saturation point,” Champion said.

It is essential, however, that we have the ability to offer what the competition offers. And by competition, I am referring to other states.”

How Are Maine’s Lawmakers Going to Decide Which Bill to Use?

Lawmakers in the Veteran and Legal Affairs Committee, overseeing the sports betting bills, can decide to move one bill out of committee or use parts of all the bills to craft legislation.

With a goal of having betting in place by September of this year to take advantage of the upcoming NFL season, lawmakers will have to make some tough decisions soon.

Perhaps the biggest decision will be to determine what the tax rate for revenue will be for gambling operators.

States that have legalized sports betting use a tax rate that stretches anywhere from a 7.5 to 36 percent rate.

Lobbyists for the state’s gaming industry have cautioned lawmakers not to get greedy as sports betting revenue will only create roughly 10% of the entire gaming market for casinos.

Regardless of the tax rate, the state’s casinos are already having discussions and making plans to work with any upcoming legislation.

Once a bill passes, Maine’s casinos won’t have to do much internally to get ready for sports betting as the legal oversight for gambling in the state has already been established.

Even if the bill requires a physical location to offer bets, then casinos have the opportunity to modernize current gaming space in their facilities for a sportsbook.

With the current session ending on May 30th, lawmakers only have a few weeks to finalize their final choice or risk the Governor calling a special session to bring legislators back to compromise on a bill.

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