The Maine Senate approved a sports betting bill, LD 585, late Tuesday night, and the bill is expected to soon head to the desk of Maine Gov. Janet Mills for her signature. It’s unknown when Mills might sign the bill into law, and the legislation didn’t include an expected launch date for legal sports betting.
Under the bill, the state’s four federally recognized Indian tribes, known as the Wabanki Nations, would control online sports wagering in Maine. The state’s two casinos and off-track betting parlors are allowed to offer retail sports betting, as the legislation allows for up to 10 facility sports wagering licenses.
The bill would allow each tribe to apply for a single mobile sports betting license, and the state would receive 10% of adjusted gross sports wagering receipts. Tax revenue would be distributed to a few places, including the state’s general fund. Each mobile license would cost $200,000 and last four years, while the four-year retail sports betting licenses would only cost $4,000.
While the tribes would control mobile sports betting, which figures to account for the heavy majority of wagering in the state, Hollywood Casino Hotel and Raceway (Penn National Gaming/Barstool Sportsbook) and Oxford Casino (Churchill Downs) could offer in-person betting. The casinos didn’t offer comment on the bill, but they likely aren’t thrilled with that arrangement, as they’ve pushed for years to have mobile wagering in the state tethered to their properties.
Steven Silver, the chair of the Maine Gambling Control Board, told Sports Handle he was a bit perplexed by the legislation.
“The Gambling Control Board’s task is regulating the casinos, and we’ve seen the casinos employ a lot of Mainers, contribute tens of millions of dollars in taxes, and operate responsibly for all these years through a pandemic and everything else,” Silver said. “And now you’re gonna say, ‘Hey, we have this new product that we’re really concerned about, how it’s gonna affect our population, so we’re just gonna hand it over to entities that have no experience in Maine operating gambling.’ That doesn’t make sense.”
If the bill becomes law, it would leave Maine with a sports betting system that Silver questions.
“We now have a system where casinos are trusted to operate slots and table games, but somehow not mobile sports betting,” Silver said.
Winding road to legalization
2022 is hardly the first time Maine legislators tried to pass sports betting legislation. Measures in 2019, 2020, and 2021 failed to become law despite reasonable support within the legislature.
Mills’ signature is expected this time, though, as the state aims to keep pace from a betting perspective with some of its regional peers. A few years ago, Maine seemed poised to be one of the first Northeastern states to legalize sports betting, but in 2022, it’s already behind the curve. New Hampshire, Connecticut, and Rhode Island all offer legal statewide mobile sports betting in New England, and sites recently went live in New York as well.
Vermont and Massachusetts don’t offer legal sports betting, though. The developing situation is particularly interesting for Massachusetts, which is home to DraftKings’ headquarters.