Caesars Sportsbook has signed a term sheet with three Maine tribes and is the first national operator to gain digital sports betting market access in the state, Sports Handle has learned.
Last spring, Maine lawmakers legalized retail and digital sports betting and gave the state’s four tribes exclusivity. The deal means that Caesars will have access to three of the four digital skins allowed in the state.
Because each tribe is entitled to one platform, Caesars could potentially have three individually branded platforms (for example, Flutter has two sportsbook brands in the U.S., FanDuel and FOX Bet) or a single platform under the Caesars banner. In that case, Mainers would have up to two online sportsbooks to choose from rather than four. Caesars did not reveal how it would use the platforms.
There are also brick-and-mortar sportsbook licenses available in Maine. The state’s two casinos (owned by PENN Entertainment and Churchill Downs), OTBs, or other racing entities can apply for those.
“As part of Caesars Entertainment’s longtime commitment to supporting Indian gaming, Caesars Sportsbook is proud to have signed a historic term sheet in Maine under which it will be the single mobile sports betting provider for three of the state’s tribes of the Wabanaki Nations: the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians, the Mi’kmaq Nation, and the Penobscot Nation,” the company said in a statement via email.
Tribes say new law a step in right direction
Maine’s four tribes are collectively known as the Wabanaki Nation, which is comprised of the Maliseets, Mi’kmaqs, Penobscots, and Passamaquoddy, the latter of which has not yet announced a partner. The new law is something of a peace offering from Gov. Janet Mills to help smooth relations with the tribes, which do not have the same level of recognition or sovereignty that tribes in other states do.
The new law calls for the tribes or their operating partners to pay a 10% tax on gaming revenue, bans betting on local Maine colleges, and sets the betting age at 21. Proposed regulations would require operators to share at least 60% of revenue with tribes or the state.
No online sportsbooks have applied for Maine sports betting licenses, per report 🇺🇸🔍
👉 https://t.co/OxU3oscuTS #online #sportsbetting #license
— iGaming NEXT (@iGamingNEXT) April 4, 2023
Tribal members were alerted to the new deal via an email shared with Sports Handle.
“Caesars has extensive experience, knowledge, and a reputation of excellence in partnering with other tribes across the country,” Penobscot Chief Kirk Francis wrote. “Our agreement with Caesars provides that the Tribes will receive annual mandatory minimum payments once we begin operations. The tribes will receive much more than these minimum payments if the market performs as expected. We will get a better sense of these revenue numbers as the industry develops in Maine.”
Maine’s tribes have long been fighting for more recognition, but, due to the 1980 Maine Indian Claims Settlement Act, which limits the tribes’ sovereignty and excludes them from applying for assistance under existing laws, have not gained it.
Last summer, U.S. Rep. Jared Golden authored a bill that would grant the tribes of the Wabanaki Nation the “same access to future beneficial laws as nearly every other federally recognized tribe in America.” The House Committee on Natural Resources approved the bill, but it has languished ever since.
“We are very excited about this partnership and opportunity to secure much needed resources,” Francis wrote. “It is important to remember that we are reclaiming our gaming rights as a Nation after nearly 40 years of being denied. We are hopeful that this is just the first step in establishing a tribal gaming enterprise as the agreement ensures the tribes’ participation in any future full iGaming opportunities authorized in Maine.”
Football season a possible start date
Maine regulators continue to work through proposed regulations and public comments on the way to launch. The Gambling Control Unit has not yet set a launch date, and it appears that around the beginning of football season would be the earliest possible start date.
@MaineUnit get online betting going! Providers aren't applying because you're taking so damn long to let us do what we voted to allow! @DKSportsbook & @FDSportsbook are surely ready and waiting, just like most sports fans in Maine!
— Mike Niedorowski (@Niedorowski207) April 19, 2023
“We are proud to be chosen by the Houlton Band, Mi’kmaq, and Penobscot as they have championed the legislation to bring significant revenues to their members and the state of Maine. We look forward to working with the governor’s office, the Gambling Control Unit, and other stakeholders to bring Caesars Rewards and Caesars Sportsbook, our leading mobile sports betting app, to Maine with a strong focus on responsible gaming,” Eric Hession, president of Caesars Digital, shared via email.