In a surprising move, the Maine Senate overturned Gov. Janet Mills wishes on sports betting by handing her the first veto of her tenure by a margin of 20-10, one more than the body needed to legalize wagering in the state.
The bill will allow on-site sportsbooks in casinos and online sports betting via mobile apps, but before the measure becomes law, the Maine House has to follow suit by overturning the veto as well.
The veto comes over seven months after the legislature passed the sports betting bill, but Gov. Mills set on making a decision until the last minute in January, where she issued her final decision, adding the sports betting veto to two other bills that she denied.
“I appreciate the Legislature’s interest in this evolving issue and respectfully request that you sustain this veto while we closely monitor the impact of legalization and the successes and failures in other states as they seek to regulate and benefit from sports betting,” Mills said in her statement announcing the veto.
The Maine bill is intriguing when compared to other sports betting laws because it opens the doors to any gaming business that is interested in offering wagering the chance to do just that for their customers. Casinos, off-track parlors, harness racing tracks, and Native American tribes will all have access to licenses if the House restores the bill.
Even though the wide-open playing field was passed in the final bill, the two casinos, one in Bangor and the other in Oxford, both expressed their frustration, arguing that they and off-track parlors should be the only recipients of sports betting licenses due to their physical locations.
But legislators rejected their stance, allowing harness tracks and Native American tribes into the final bill.
The bill faced no true opposition while it was being debated in both chambers of the Maine legislation, with the exception of a handful of lawmakers expressing concern about how problem gambling will be dealt with through social services.
Despite the smooth legislative process, Gov. Mills vetoed the bill, raising the concern that a betting expansion was not in the best interest of the state’s citizens. Gov. Mills’ decision would cost the state roughly $7 million in estimated tax revenue.
Sen. Louis Luchini, the bill’s sponsor, has publicly admitted that he does not know if the bill has the votes in the House to bypass the veto and become law.
“I think a lot of people realize that the illegal market is so huge, and we’ve seen a lot of states quickly come on board to legalize sports betting, that if we don’t do it other states will get our players to go to their state and gamble,” Luchini said.
The bill will face a roll call vote on Tuesday and if the House overturns the veto, this will be the first time in Gov. Mills’ tenure that both chambers reversed her decision, even though her Democratic party holds the majority in the House and Senate.
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