Maine lawmakers approved legal sports betting in the wee hours of June 18. Or did they?
At the time, media, including Sports Handle, wrote that LD 1352, which would legalize statewide mobile wagering with a tethering requirement, was being sent to Gov. Janet Mills’ office. Turns out that wasn’t exactly true. Had it been, Mills would have had 10 business days from June 18 to sign, veto or let the bill become law, and right now we’d be writing about that.
But the wait continues. According to a legislative specialist in Maine’s Senate Majority Office, there’s more to the process. Bills in Maine must go through two votes in each chamber, and LD 1352 has only gone through one in each. On June 18, the bill was engrossed by both the Senate and the House despite efforts from bill sponsor Sen. Louis Luchini to kill it. It must now be enacted by both chambers. LD 1352 is on House and Senate agendas for enactment Wednesday, June 30, which will likely be the last day of the extended first regular session — of the 13th day of the first special session, depending on who you talk to — of the 130th Legislature.
Plenty more approvals needed
The bill is currently in the House, so it will be voted on there first. Both chambers are set to have floor sessions Wednesday beginning at 10 a.m. Once the bill passes the House, it will be sent to the Senate.
But even if both chambers pass the bill — and sources say it’s not necessarily a slam dunk — there is one more step before it hits Mills’ desk. Any Maine bill with a financial note must go to the so-called Appropriations Table before being sent to the governor. The Appropriations Table is a joint committee that reviews any bills that either generate revenue or cost the state money.
It's beyond the point of good or bad optics…..access to illegal sports betting easier and more prevalent than ever, due to cryptocurrency. Maine is just cutting a hole in their pocket by not offering a legal, state-revenue gaining option for those betting on sports in the state
— john choud (@johnchoud) June 23, 2021
A date for the Appropriations Table has not yet been set, though it will likely meet sometime in the next month. If the group approves the bill, only then will be it sent to Mills. At that point, the 10-day clock will start. All of that means that sports betting could be legal in Maine by football season, but likely not live until 2022.
“No matter when the deadline for Governor Mills to act expires, I hope we do not experience an 11th-hour veto again,” Steve Silver, chair of the Maine Gambling Control Board, told Sports Handle. “It is clear that the majority of Mainers want what the majority of American states already provide — the ability to wager on sports in a legal, regulated market. Every day of inaction in Maine is another day that offshore sites remain in business and New Hampshire rakes in tax dollars from Maine bettors.”
It’s been a bumpy ride
No matter what happens, the latest machinations are just one more hairpin turn along the switchback road to legal sports betting in Maine. The process started in earnest in 2019 when the legislature sent to Mills the Luchini bill that at the time would have created one of the most open, competitive marketplaces in the U.S. But the conservative, anti-gambling governor let the bill languish for more than six months before vetoing it at the last minute, on Jan. 10, 2020. The Senate was able to override the veto less than a month later, but the House failed at its attempt.
Fast forward to 2021 when four sports betting bills were filed. After a series of hearings and work sessions in the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee, those bills were boiled down to one, LD 1352, which Luchini authored. But amendments were added and the final result was a bill that would require digital sports betting platforms to be tethered to existing brick-and-mortar gaming facilities. Luchini is staunchly opposed to tethering, saying that it allows casino companies to be the “gatekeepers” of gaming in the state, and he tried to convince his Senate peers not to pass it.
Luchini’s efforts failed during the engrossment vote, bringing us here, to the precipice, once again.