The state’s existing gaming venues, including two casinos owned and operated by Penn National Gaming and Churchill Downs, would not be eligible for mobile licenses. Four tribes would be eligible for digital licenses, and only OTBs in the state would be able to build retail sportsbooks.
Revised language has not yet been added to the bill, LD 1626, which would expand sovereignty for the state’s tribes, and the sports betting section is at odds with another bill under consideration this session. LD 1352, which would legalize statewide mobile betting with platforms — including PNG’s Barstool Sportsbook or Churchill’s TwinSpires — tied to existing casinos and horse racetracks, was approved by both chambers last summer and is currently sitting on the “Appropriations Table” awaiting further action.
Mills has historically been opposed to legal wagering and vetoed a bill in January 2020 that would have created one of the most open, competitive marketplaces in the country. Since that bill was first filed in 2019, lawmakers in New Hampshire and Connecticut have both legalized sports betting, while Rhode Island lawmakers legalized it in 2018. All three states offer statewide mobile wagering.
Bill addresses bigger issues
Mills’ latest offering, according to the Bangor Daily News, has angered some lawmakers — specifically Sen. Joe Baldacci, who called the bill a “direct threat to jobs and businesses.” Sports betting is just one piece of the bill, which also addresses tax breaks for the state’s Wabanaki Nations and aspires to help the state get some sales tax back.
Maine has four federally recognized tribes, the Maliseet, Micmac, Penobscot, and Passamaquoddy, collectively referred to as the Wabanaki Nations. Each tribe has its own government and none currently have casinos or other gaming.
"Federally recognized tribes in Maine would be the only groups eligible to get mobile sports betting licenses" https://t.co/wEmyerH5H9
— Victor Rocha (@VictorRocha1) February 12, 2022
The state of Maine has long had disputes with the Wabanaki Nations, and last week, Jerry Reid, Mills’ chief counsel, wrote an op-ed in the Bangor Daily News laying out progress he’s made in negotiating with the tribes and smoothing the rift.
In it, he wrote, “We have identified online sports betting, which is already the subject of a bill pending in the legislature and which many states have legalized already, as an avenue to fulfill the Tribes’ desire for gaming opportunities while avoiding the issues associated with building new casinos. We are now working together on legislation that would make the Tribes, rather than out-of-state corporate gaming interests, the primary beneficiary of online sports wagering in Maine.”
Reid is working with the tribes on LD 1626, filed last year, which in its current version would expand the sovereignty of the tribes; exempt them from sales, income, and property tax related to activities on their land; and allow some of the tribes exclusivity in some judicial matters.
Mills did not address legal wagering of any kind during her state of the state address last week. A hearing in the the Committee on Judiciary is set for 9 a.m. Tuesday.