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Maine’s Sports Betting Designs Run Into Dispute Over Control

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Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: A Maine football helmet.

The Maine governor’s plan to legalize online sports betting under the state’s native tribes is on a collision course with a Senate plan to cut casinos in on the action.

The House on Friday advanced a Gov. Janet Mills (D) proposal to update the state’s 40-year-old compact with its Wabanaki tribes. Along with granting them four mobile sports betting licenses, the package would boost tribal court powers.

Sen. Joe Baldacci (D), also on Friday, unveiled an alternate proposal that would grant retail betting licenses to the state’s two casinos in Oxford and Bangor, as well as the tribes.

For either measure to pass, both chambers must pass the same bill by April 20, the last day of the 2022 legislative session. It’s unclear whether Mills would sign any sports betting measure that doesn’t give tribes 100% control.

Her office did not immediately respond to request for comment.

“This amendment will basically render the bill meaningless for the tribes, Penobscot Nation Chief Kirk Francis said in a statement to WMTW News 8. “This is a tribal bill that is attempted to be hijacked by the casinos.”

Representatives of the state’s commercial casinos have spoken out against Mill’s plan, calling it an affront on their business. The Sports Betting Alliance, a gaming lobbying group, has spoken out against capping the online market at four operators.

“Competitive pricing is a critical component of the public policy goal to eliminate the illegal market,” the SBA said last month during a bill hearing.

Baldacci represents Bangor, home of to the Penn National’s Hollywood Casino Hotel & Raceway.

Mills, who’s vowed to improve tribal relations since taking office in 2019, is opposed to a larger tribal sovereignty expansion bill.

That measure, already passed by the House and Senate, would enhance tribal authority over natural resources and exempt them from paying state or local taxes on their lands. 

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