Maine is known as Vacationland. It says so right on the state license plate. The state’s small towns, beaches, harbors, islands, and burgeoning food scene make it a stellar vacation destination. What could be better? Well, Maine is now seriously pursuing the legalization of online sports betting. Gambling in general is not a big thing in Maine, which has just 2 retail casinos, but a few sports betting related policy updates could change the game.
Sports betting isn’t legal in Maine yet, but it isn’t for lack of trying on the part of the legislature. Legislation legalizing sports betting has passed one or both chambers of the state legislature for two years in a row, but opposition from the Governor and other competing legislative priorities have prevented the bills from becoming law. Regardless of the present struggles, most industry observers believe that sports betting will eventually become a reality in Maine, possibly as soon as 2022.
Read on for more information about Maine’s legislative journey, why tethering is so important, an overview of the existing casino industry in the state, which sportsbooks will come to Maine when wagering becomes legal, what’s happening in neighboring states, and more.
Maine Sportsbook Alternatives: Over/Under Player Props
Sports betting in Maine
Back in 2019, about a year after PASPA was overturned and states became able to legalize sports betting, the Maine legislature surprisingly passed a sports betting bill on the last day of its legislative session. The topic had been discussed a little bit during the session, but most observers figured they would wait and focus on it in 2020. Nope. The bill passed, but was not signed into law right away.
In most states, if a bill passed by the legislature is not signed by the governor within a certain amount of time, usually 10 days, it automatically becomes law. In Maine, after legislature passes a bill right before adjournment, if the governor takes no action the bill is held over until the next legislative session begins. That is what happened in 2019, so sports betting was in limbo for over 6 months.
When the 2020 legislative session began, Governor Mills did indeed exercise her veto power because she did not believe the citizens of Maine wanted to expand gambling options in the state. The legislature disagreed, and voted to override her veto. The Senate was able to do so, but the House came up just short, so the veto stood and legal sports betting was dead for the year.
Legislative progress on sports betting in 2021
Fast forward to 2021 and the legislature decided to take another swing at sports betting in Maine. LD 1352 was introduced and passed by the House twice. It also passed the Senate, but was amended to include a tethering requirement. The original sponsor of the bill, Senator Louis Luchini, is adamantly opposed to tethering and opposed the amendment, even though that meant opposing his own bill. In the end, after vigorous debate, the tethering requirement won out. In Maine, bills that generate revenue are required to go to the “Appropriations Table” for one last vote before going to the Governor. LD 1532 went to the Table but was never voted on and served (pun intended) to the Governor. We’re getting a little in the weeds here, but the bottom line is both the House and Senate passed the sports betting bill but the legislature adjourned before the bill was finalized and sent to the Governor, so sports betting is dead (again) in Maine until 2022.
This is a bummer, but the fact is that the legislature was dealing with many competing priorities in the weeks prior to adjournment and, because of the opposition among the Governor and some in the legislature, sports betting got left behind. They will likely try again next year, because sports betting is only getting bigger and the revenue they are leaving on the table will only increase.
We mentioned a tethering requirement being a big sticking point in the debate surrounding sports betting legalization in Maine. Let’s go over what that means and why it is so important.
Tethering means to attach something to something else. The tetherball game you played as a kid was called that because the ball was tethered to the pole. A tethering requirement in the world of sports betting means that a sportsbook cannot operate on its own. It needs to be “tethered to,” or affiliated with, an existing casino or organization. Many states have this requirement for various reasons, but it usually comes down to influence. Casinos employ a lot of people and pay a lot in taxes, so they usually carry some weight in state legislatures.
The tethering requirement was not originally in the bill introduced by Senator Luchini, who is an outspoken opponent of tethering, but it was added later on as an amendment. This happened partly because of heavy lobbying by Penn National, the very large and influential casino company that owns Hollywood Slots Hotel & Raceway in Bangor, one of the two casinos in the state. They see their investment in the state as a reason to have more influence over potential sportsbook newcomers.
Others disagree, seeing tethering as an unreasonable and unnecessary requirement in a state with so few casinos. They think sportsbooks should be able to compete for business without having to align with the existing gaming operators in the state. Each side of the argument has their own supporters. In 2021 the pro-tethering side won the battle but lost the war because legalized sports betting didn’t happen.
The debate about tethering isn’t going away. It will be one of the biggest issues when legalized sports betting comes up for debate again in 2022. Right now it is hard to say at this point which side will win out, but now at least you know what everyone is talking about.
What’s in the Maine sports betting bill?
We know that sports betting legalization has been debated and voted on by the legislature multiple times since 2019 and that tethering and the appetite for expanded gaming in the state are a big part of the reason it has yet to be signed into law. What else is in the bill? Let’s take a look at the main points of the 2021 version, LD 1352, for more details about what sort of regulatory structure might emerge when/if sports betting is legalized.
- Self-exclusion requirement
- Minimum age of 21 to wager on sports
- Bettors must be physically located in the state to wager, but can sign up for an account from anywhere
- Remote registration will likely be allowed, but is not explicitly addressed in the bill
- Betting on college teams, eSports, and the Olympics along with all major sports is permitted
- Wagering on Maine colleges is not allowed under the bill
- Tax rates – 10% for retail sportsbooks and 16% for mobile operators
- Entities in the state eligible to apply for both retail and mobile sports betting licenses:
- Commercial racetracks
- Off Track Betting facilities
- Slot machine facilities or casinos
- All federally recognized tribes in the state
Note: A qualified gaming entity (sportsbook) would have been eligible to apply for a mobile gaming license (no tethering) in the first draft of the legislation. This was included in the original bill but was stripped out in the committee amendment. The bill as passed has a tethering requirement.
What’s next for sports betting in Maine?
This battle is far from over. Similar legislation will assuredly be introduced in 2022, and the same tethering battles will be fought again. Does sports betting have a better chance of enactment next year? Definitely. Legislators need time to get up to gain a deep understanding of complicated policy issues. It is very common for big legislative issues to take several years to resolve. Legislators will come into the 2022 session knowing where they stand on sports betting and will be able to focus on the issue as it is debated. It stands to reason that the increased prevalence of sports betting in today’s society along with the millions in taxpayer revenue the state is losing to its neighbors will result in legalized, regulated, and taxed sports betting coming to Maine. Will tethering be part of the legislation? That is the biggest question that will remain unanswered until next year.
Existing casinos in ME
|Hollywood Slots Hotel & Raceway||Penn National Gaming||Bangor|
|Oxford Casino||Churchill Downs, Inc.||Oxford|
As mentioned, casino gambling is not a big deal in Maine. There are only two commercial casinos and six off-track betting facilities in the state. All of these facilities would be eligible for a retail and mobile sports betting license under the various proposals debated by the legislature. It is reasonable to assume that they will be granted licenses once sports betting is approved. Partnerships would likely then fall into place similar to other states that have seen big sportsbooks align with small gaming operators out of both strategic alignment and necessity.
Which sportsbooks will come to Maine when sports betting is legalized?
If we assume there will be a tethering requirement when sports betting is legalized in Maine, the existing gaming operators will be in the catbird seat. The six OTB facilities will each be able to apply for a mobile gaming license, which means they will likely have the ability to partner with an existing sportsbook as their online skin. A tethered model is not quite as good for bettors as an open model, but it’s still better than the monopoly model New Hampshire implemented. Here are some of the sportsbooks we expect to come to Maine when sports betting is legalized:
- Barstool Sportsbook – Penn National owns the biggest casino in the state and has a lot of influence in state politics. They want to be the biggest operator in ME. This means Barstool Sportsbook, which is owned by Penn National, will be there.
- TwinSpires – Churchill Downs Inc., parent company of TwinSpires, owns Oxford Casino, the other commercial casino in Maine. As such, when sports betting comes to ME, TwinSpires should also be there.
- DraftKings – Headquartered in nearby Boston, the industry leader will definitely make its way to Maine at some point
- Bally Bet
- Caesars Sportsbook
- FOX Bet
Sports betting in neighboring state(s)/countries
Ok, yes *checks map* Maine only has one neighboring state and one neighboring country, but many states are close by. You can cover a lot of states in a short amount of time in the Northeast. For this section we will discuss the entire region.
Maine’s neighbor to the west and south has legal sports betting, but only one operator. DraftKings won the contract to bring sports betting to New Hampshire under a state-run lottery-style model that sees 51% of the revenue generated by wagering go straight to the state’s coffers. DraftKings gets the other 49%. Nice deal for the state, less so for DraftKings. The real losers in the arrangement are sports bettors in the state who have to put up with inferior lines and limited promotions. On the plus side, you only need to be 18years old to bet.
The Bay State is a short drive from Maine and is home to the region’s mega-popular professional sports teams. Similar to Maine, sports betting has been debated in the Massachusetts state legislature for a few years, but the process has been derailed somewhere along the line. Industry observers believe, like Maine, sports betting will eventually come to Massachusetts, but when Bay Staters will be able to legally wager on their beloved sports teams is anyone’s guess.
Sports betting is also legal in Rhode Island, but, similar to New Hampshire, it is extremely limited and one operator controls mobile betting under an agreement with the state. There are two casinos with retail sportsbooks, and that’s it. Bad news for bettors, but at least it’s something.
Legislators in Connecticut grappled with whether to bring sports betting to their state for several years. They seemed close but were never able to close the deal, mostly due to the dynamics related to the two influential tribes in the state, both of which wanted to significantly influence how sports betting was regulated. That ended in 2021 when the legislature came to an agreement that will allow the two tribes and the state lottery to offer retail and online sports betting. This is not a bad result for bettors in the state, who will have three operators to choose from.
The Empire State currently has legal retail sports betting at a handful of casinos upstate, which is great for the people who live nearby, however none are anywhere near New York City. Everyone else has to get in their car and drive to a far-away casino or go across state lines to Pennsylvania or New Jersey, both of which offer mobile betting. But there is good news on the horizon: mobile betting has been legalized and will come to New York sometime in early 2022. It remains to be seen how many operators will be willing to pay the extremely high tax rate and license fees to access the market. Observers predict the biggest operators will come to New York, but bettors in the state could see higher vigs and fewer promotions because of the increased costs operators will have to pay.
Yes, Canada is a country, not a state. But it does border Maine. Millions of Canadians visit Maine each year and countless Mainers venture northeast to visit Quebec and New Brunswick. This is relevant because Canada just legalized single-game sports betting, and it is expected that both Quebec and New Brunswick will be offering single-game wagers sometime in late 2021. Good news for the people who live close enough to Canada that can head over and make some bets while waiting for their Timbits, but it doesn’t seem likely that very many people are going to cross the border just to bet on sports.
While sports betting is not legal in Maine yet, we are here to help you prepare for what it will be like to legally wager on sports when you are allowed to do so. To that end you’re going to need to open an account with the sportsbook of your choice, and make a deposit before you can bet. Here are most of the ways you will be able to make withdrawals and deposits to and from the account of your favorite sportsbook:
- ACH eCheck
- Credit/debit cards
- Online banking
- Cash at casino cage
- bank wires
Probable betting markets
A market is a bet offered by a sportsbook. The sportsbook “makes the market” by posting available wagering opportunities. One Patriots game can have over 100 different markets. Even a random Tuesday night Red Sox game usually has dozens of markets available on most sportsbooks. If you want to take the Patriots -7.5, that is a market. Under 44.5 total points would be another market, and so on. Here are the types of markets that will be available to bettors in Maine:
Additionally, sports bettors in Maine can expect to have a wide variety of sports to wager on. Sportsbooks in every state offer dozens of different sports worldwide. Everything from cricket to baseball is available. As an example, here is a list of some of the sports offered by our friends at DraftKings:
- Aussie Rules Football
- Basketball (NBA and NCAA)
- Football (NFL and NCAA)
- Olympic sports (canoeing, gymnastics, swimming, rowing, etc.)
- Table tennis
Frequently Asked Questions
Is sports betting legal in Maine?
No. Sports betting is not legal in Maine at this time. The legislature will likely consider the issue in 2022 and many expect it to ultimately be legalized. Until then, fans of sports betting in Maine have to go to a neighboring state to legally place their wagers.
Which sportsbooks will be in Maine when sports betting is legalized?
It is safe to say that once approved several different sportsbooks will come to Maine. The first three we expect to go live in the state are Barstool Sportsbook, TwinSpires, and DraftKings. After that, it seems likely that the big companies like FanDuel, Caesars Sportsbook, BetMGM and the like will come up with an agreement to be an online skin for whichever businesses end up qualifying for a sports betting license.
What is the difference between a legal sportsbook and an offshore sportsbook?
If you just looked at the online presence, there doesn’t appear to be much difference between an offshore sportsbook from a legal, regulated sportsbook. Once you get past the markets and promotions, you start to see many differences. Offshore sportsbooks offer deposits and withdrawals in bitcoin, for example, because they’re not approved to deal with credit card companies or U.S. banks. Nothing against cryptocurrencies, but legal sportsbooks keep all customer deposits in segregated accounts so there is no need to use crypto.
Got a question about your account? Try getting a straight answer from an offshore sportsbook. They already have your money so they have less motivation to help solve your problem. Withdrawals are also tougher and more complicated than they need to be. Compare that with a legal, regulated sportsbook that competes for your business. One bad experience with customer service and you will take your money elsewhere. Deposits are easy and withdrawals are just as easy, with many different options available. But the biggest difference are the regulations in place to guard against malfeasance. Offshore sportsbooks are offshore for a reason; they face little, if any, regulatory scrutiny. Sportsbooks here in the United States are regulated in each state in which they operate. State regulations protect bettors from being fleeced and guide all aspects of sportsbook operations. Bottom line: your money is safe in a legal, regulated sportsbook.