Maine to Legalize Online Sports Betting Pending Governor’s Signature
Ben McCanna/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images. Pictured: The Maine State House in Augusta, ME.
The Maine legislature passed a bill late Tuesday night to legalize sports betting, granting its native tribes exclusive control over the online market.
The bill cleared the Senate 23-11 the night before the final day of the 2022 legislative session, after passing in the House last week. It now heads to Gov. Janet Mills (D), who is expected to sign what’s part of a larger update to the state’s 40-year-old compact with its Wabanaki tribes.
Mobile apps and retail betting won’t go live any time soon, according to Milton Champion, executive director of the Maine Gambling Control Unit.
“Any vacation that I had is pretty much canceled,” Milton told Action Network. “This is going to take a lot of hearings and comment gathering before we get started.
Betting on in-state college teams is prohibited under the agreement.
Tribal Monopoly on Online Betting
Online licenses will be granted exclusively to the Penobscot, Passamaquoddy, Micmac and Maliseet tribes. Each may partner with one commercial provider, setting the state up for four online sportsbooks.
Online betting is estimated to make up 85% of Maine’s market.
They’ll pay a 10% tax on gaming revenue and $200,000 every four years to renew their licenses. Any commercial partner will pay $40,000 over the same timeframe.
Tribal sports betting agreements typically require approval from the Department of the Interior, which regulates federally recognized tribes, but according to Champion that’s not the case in Maine.
“This has nothing to do with any type of federal compact which is why we’re going to be the regulatory agency,” Champion said.
That eliminates at least one obstacle that’s delayed launches in other tribal states like Connecticut and New Mexico.
Casinos Limited to Retail Betting
Until a Senate amendment added Tuesday, commercial casinos had been excluded from the bill.
The Hollywood Casino Hotel & Raceway, owned by Penn National, and the Oxford Casino Hotel, owned by Churchill Downs, will be able to apply for licenses, but they’ll be limited to in-person betting.
Four additional retail licenses are available for off-track betting facilities and commercial tracks. Those cost $4,000 every four years.
Sen. Joseph Baldacci (D), who introduced the amendment, said Mills was clear giving casinos the same control as tribes would be a dealbreaker.
“I’m satisfied the Senate passed my amendment, he said. “Giving the casinos 20% of the loaf is better than no loaf at all.”
Throughout the legislative process representatives of the state’s commercial casinos have called the plan “an affront on their business”.
With Mills’ approval, Maine would become the 34th state to legalize sports betting and third smallest with online betting behind Rhode Island and Wyoming.
Massachusetts and Vermont are now the only New England states yet to legalize sports betting.
The tribes and casinos did not immediately responded to requests for comment.