Update: Around 7 pm ET on Wednesday, the Senate concurred. It’s on to Goveror Janet Mills’ desk.
The bill to legalize gambling on sports just received final passage in the Senate. So unless Gov. Mills vetoes it, sports betting will soon be allowed in Maine. #mepolitics
— Kevin Miller (@KevinMillerPPH) June 19, 2019
Both chambers of Maine’s legislature on Tuesday took steps to advance a bill that would legalize sports wagering at retail locations including existing casinos and via online/mobile platforms. Wednesday is the final day of the session, and lawmakers plan to burn some late night oil if necessity compels, according to the Associated Press.
Conversations about legalizing sports betting in Maine preceded the movement this week as lawmakers had submitted five separate bills for consideration.
“After numerous committee hearings and work sessions, the much anticipated sports betting bill (L.D. 553) made it to the Senate floor with essentially two versions up for debate,” Steve Silver, a lawyer in Portland, Maine, and adjunct professor of gaming law at the University of Maine School of Law, told Sports Handle. “The text of the bill had not been made public yet at that point.”
Silver provided additional behind-the-scenes color about the sports betting vehicles:
One version permitted mobile wagering untethered to brick-and-mortar locations and the other mandated a partnership with a brick and mortar like in New Jersey. The Senate ultimately decided to adopt the majority report of the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee which allows stand-alone mobile licenses as well as licenses at casinos, racetracks, OTBs, and federally recognized Indian tribes.
Legal sports betting coming to Maine
The bill would allow the following 11 entities to obtain licensed for on-premises retail sportsbooks: the state’s existing casinos, the Penn National-owned Hollywood Casino in Bangor and the Oxford Casino; the state’s lone operational racetrack; four off-track betting locations; plus the state’s four Native American tribes, at least two of which the legislature anticipates will seek mobile-only licenses.
And in even more of a “free market” approach like the one adopted by Tennessee this year, the legislature would allow online/mobile sportsbooks to compete in the absence of a partnership with a brick-and-mortar property.
“To me, it’s a strange way to write a law that would require a new business to come into Maine only if they tether their license to an existing business,” bill sponsor Sen. Louis Luchini told the Press Herald amid the debate on Tuesday. “We don’t require Amazon to tether to existing grocery stores and we don’t require Airbnb to tether to hotels.”
This is codified by granting the regulatory body the ability to award a license to a “qualified gaming entity,” defined as a gaming entity that offers sports wagering through mobile applications or digital platforms in any jurisdiction in the United States pursuant to a state regulatory structure.
This means Mainers can expect to see FanDuel Sportsbook, DraftKings Sportsbook, PointsBet, playMGM, William Hill (also in retail form at Hollywood), and a variety of other New Jersey-and-elsewhere-approved existing, operational sportsbooks.
“Barring any surprises, the bill on track to pass now could be one of the greatest in the nation for both consumers and operators,” Silver said. “It would be one of the few post-PASPA laws that embraces a free market concept meaning numerous licenses in terms of type and location, relatively low fees and taxes, no integrity fees, and no data mandates.”
As currently, constituted, the bill does not impose any cap on the number of potential online-only licensees. That could come up for discussion on Wednesday.
And although tethering is not required, “I suspect some mobile operators will end up partnering with some of the brick-and-mortar facilities for marketing and branding purposes” Silver said.
Amazing that Maine is going to be a model for all other states when it comes to sports betting. All but a done deal now with Senate and House clearing path tonight. Full text here: https://t.co/Uf94qmDBVJ
— The Legal Blitz (@TheLegalBlitz) June 19, 2019
Some other key points:
- Bettors must be 21+
- Full-fledged betting on collegiate and professional athletics would be allowed — but not on any athletic event in which any Maine collegiate sports team participates, regardless of where the event takes place
- The law sets forth two tax rates, 10% on brick-and-mortar gross sports wagering revenue, and 16% on online wagering revenue
- The fee for an initial or renewed mobile sports wagering license is $20k
- The existing Gambling Control Unit (GCU) within the Department of Public Safety would assume regulatory oversight
- Revenues would go to Maine’s General Fund, with 1% to be credited to the GCU for administrative expenses and 1% to be credited to the Gambling Addiction and Prevention Treatment Fund.
- According to the fiscal note, the legislature is anticipating: “General Fund revenue of $1,311,00 in fiscal year 2019-20 and $2,622,000 in fiscal year 2020-21 and Other Special Revenue Funds revenue of $95k in fiscal year 2019-20 and $190,000 in fiscal year 2020-21″
DFS gets a leg up, too
The striking of the word “collegiate” from pre-existing law allowing daily fantasy sports in Maine would, of course, allow DFS contests based on collegiate athletics.
“This is controversial to some, so it is surprising that it has flown under the radar,” Silver said.
Per the bill summary, “the amendment also allows a licensed fantasy contest operator to offer a fantasy contest based on the performances of participants in collegiate athletic events.”
If Maine gets the bill across the finish line and receives Governor Janet Mills’ approval, it would become the sixth state in 2019 to legalize sports wagering in some way, shape or form, with still more aiming to do so this year.