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In 2020, newly-minted Maine Governor Janet Mills slammed down the veto on a potential sports wagering bill in the Pine Tree State. The bill would have legalized both online and in-person sports betting for all eligible patrons visiting or living in the state. Governor Mills wasn’t convinced that the Maine betting public was “ready” for sports betting, though there was a good deal of support for the bill on both sides of the aisle.
Mills’ attempt to veto the bill only narrowly succeeded, so there’s a good chance that this year’s attempts to bring legal sports betting to Maine will gain some momentum. At the moment, it’s uncertain when the bill will actually reach the governor’s desk, but Mills’ counsel has reiterated her early position, namely that Mainers “aren’t ready” for the practice.
The bill struck down by Gov. Mills had a provision allowing sportsbooks to enter the legal market without having to partner with an in-person casino location. The two sole casino operators (Penn National, Churchill Downs) pushed back, of course, since the bill would release the two companies’ stranglehold on the ME market. Having no requirements for a partner casino would allow any number of operators to flood the market, and PNG/Churchill felt that they had been making money for ME for some time, so why should they not be given priority?
Now, there are at least four competing bills in the Maine legislature, all of which have different caveats. These are provisions regarding registration, who will benefit from the tax revenue, and more. None of the bills maintained the provision allowing an operator to enter the market without a partnership with an existing betting location– however, in-person locations like casinos, tribal gambling locations, and off-track betting sites will be eligible to apply for sports betting licenses.
One bill in particular sponsored by Senate Chair Louis Luchini (D) has full backing from NFL representatives and is a leading contender for the bill that will make it to the governor’s desk. Contradicting Governor Mills’ interpretation that the Maine public is unready for a legal sports betting framework, the NFL’s official position on sports betting in Maine is that it would be a net positive both for the bettors and players, as well as a better way to protect the integrity of the game.
Chairman of the Maine Gambling Control Board, Steve Silver, has stated that sports betting for Mainers is a solid move for the future, as neighbor New Hampshire pulls over $10 million in tax revenue per year from the practice. He has been quoted as saying that the only “winners” in the current legal landscape are the “unregulated offshore sites and neighborhood bookies”, so it’s clear that those in the know see legal sports betting as the only sensible move for Maine’s future.
Two years out from initial attempts to legalize sports betting in Maine, it’s still uncertain as to whether or not Governor Mills would be open to some kind of sports betting framework. Rep. Tim Roche (R) is optimistic, quoted as saying “I think she’s going to be OK with this”. There is a palpable hopefulness in the Maine legislature, but until Governor Mills actually gets a draft of the bill on her desk, there are not many bettors can do but hope.
Chris Altman is a traveling writer and content specialist covering everything from betting to plane crashes. He has been working in sports betting, specifically legislation for some time now, covering industry developments and the legal landscape of sportsbooks in the U.S. Chris is also a published short story writer and zine editor. Email: [email protected]More info on Chris Altman
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