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Maine will not become the 13th state in the United States to offer online and in-person sports wagering after Governor Janet Mills vetoed the state’s betting bill.
The veto came on the last day that Gov. Mills could take action on the bill after it was approved at the end of last June’s legislative session.
Lawmakers seemed to take the veto as a final decision, as they did not recall the bill after the rejection to rework the measure. If lawmakers recall the bill later on, they’ll need Gov. Mills’ approval before the measure can become law unless the House and Senate can override the veto in the interim through a two-thirds approval.
State Senator Louis Luchini, a Democrat from Ellsworth, sponsored the bill and had already begun working on the implementation of the possible legalization.
Sen. Luchini received word of the veto at a gambling conference for state representatives in San Diego via a phone call with the Governor.
Luchini expressed disappointment but understanding at Gov. Mills’ decision.
“I appreciate that she took a real thoughtful approach and researched the topic thoroughly and I’m willing to keep working on it to make it a more acceptable measure for anyone who has issues with it,” state Sen. Luchini said.
Estimates on how much money sports betting would bring Maine varied, but several firms believed that the state could bring in roughly $5 million per year in taxes and administrative fees from operators. But actual revenue from states that have already legalized have fallen well short of the estimates lawmakers used to promote their bills.
Ultimately, Gov. Mills decided that the reasons for bringing sports betting to Maine were not fully realized or understood. Although she believed that lawmakers had done their due diligence, she didn’t feel that Maine citizens wanted wagering available across the state.
“Before Maine joins the frenzy of states hungry to attract this market, I believe we need to examine the issue more clearly; better understand the evolving experiences of other states; and thoughtfully determine the best approach for Maine,” Mills wrote.
“That approach needs to balance the desire to suppress gambling activities now being conducted illegally and the need to protect youthful gamblers and those least able to absorb losses under a closely regulated scheme.”
Gov. Mills further explained in her two-page veto that legalizing sports betting would create problem gamblers that would damage families and personal finances, not to mention that other states have fallen shy of their expected windfalls.
Lawmakers in states that have not legalized sports betting commonly use the possibility of losing revenue to other betting-legal states as a method to push legalization. But Gov. Mills rejected that argument in her letter, stating that betting in the United States is too young in its implementation to know how revenue is taken from state to state.
Lawmakers in Maine should make a decision on recalling the bill for a veto within the next few weeks. Lobbyists from the casino industry in Maine are expected to push legislators for a veto, allowing betting to come to the state before the end of 2020.
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