On Tuesday the deadline came and went for Maine Governor Janet Mills to sign L.D. 553, a bill passed by both chambers of the legislature on the last day of the session on June 19 that would legalize sports wagering in retail sportsbooks and online statewide.
While Mills is generally not in favor of any expansion of legal gambling in the state, her signature for the measure passed on bipartisan lines was expected.
By letting the bill go unsigned, Mills, a Democrat, basically punted.
“Governor Mills didn’t affirmatively veto the bill, which means there is still hope,” Steve Silver, a lawyer in Portland, Maine, and adjunct professor of gaming law at the University of Maine School of Law, told Sports Handle. “However, unless the legislature calls a special session lasting longer than three days and the Governor doesn’t affirmatively veto it, then sports betting will have to wait. This is baffling for Maine consumers and the sports betting industry.”
What now for Maine sports betting?
A quick bit of more background: Mills was afforded the opportunity to sit on the bill thanks to a quirk in the state constitution: Because the Legislature adjourned on June 19, Mills wasn’t under any deadline to take action or not during a 10-day window (Sundays excepted) following the session’s close.
As a result of the inaction, the bill goes back into play when the legislature convenes for a session lasting more than three days. If there is no special session of such length, the bill survives to the next regular session on Jan. 8, 2020. At that time, Mills would have three days to veto, otherwise the bill will become law by her omission.
The thinking is that given the Governor is lukewarm on backing any new form of legalized gambling, this path she’s taking, by virtue of not yet vetoing it, is simply to let it pass into law without taking any action. Time will tell when (and if) that will happen.
Sen. Louis Luchini, the bill sponsor, said on Wednesday he told the Mills administration “he’s happy to work with them on the bill,” reports the Associated Press.
The bill as currently constituted embraces a free market approach. It would allow existing gambling entities to obtain licenses for on-premises retail sportsbooks. Those entities include a mixture of commercial casinos, a racetrack, OTB locations plus the state’s four Native American tribes.
The bill would also allow untethered, mobile/online-only sportsbooks to enter the market. One such player in that market is poised to be DraftKings.
Jamie Chisholm, DraftKings Director, Global Public Affairs, told Sports Handle:
“We appreciate the diligent work and comprehensive approach of Chairmen Luchini and Schneck, and the entire legislature, in passing legislation that if enacted will protect Mainers and deliver a blow to the thriving illegal market by embracing competitive, mobile sports wagering operations with robust consumer protections. We are hopeful that Governor Mills allows the bill to usher in an era of legal, regulated sports betting in the Pine Tree State.”
A representative at Governor Mills’ office did not immediately respond to Sports Handle’s request for comment.
Now, Mainers wait.
According to the Press Herald, when the session concluded in late June, Democratic leaders said they expected that Mills would call them back for a special session later in the summer to try again to pass a bond package for infrastructure and education-related improvements.
The list of new states to have officially legalized sports wagering in 2019 includes Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Montana and Tennessee. A bill in New Hampshire is awaiting Governor Sununu’s signature. Voters in Colorado will decide in November whether to proceed or not with the legalization of sports wagering.