Maine Sports Betting Inching Closer to Reality

Maine Sports Betting Inching Closer to Reality

Will Maine legislators be able to legalize sports betting this time around? They certainly have the tax incentive to encourage passage.

Senate Bill 1352 was introduced this week by Senator Louis Luchini in the Main State Senate, little over one year after Bill LD 553, which also sought to legalize sports wagering, was passed but vetoed by Governor Janet Mills.

The Senator can only hope for a better result for his bill this year.

The last sports betting bill, similarly introduced by Luchini, made it all the way to the Governor’s desk in February 2020 before being vetoed.

Mills said at the time:

“I remain unconvinced that the majority of Maine people are ready to legalize, support, endorse and promote betting.”

Notably, at the time, the bill also was opposed by the owners of the two casinos in Maine: Penn National and Churchill Downs.

Penn explained after the veto that it supported sports betting in Maine but only for organizations that had “invested hundreds of millions of dollars in the state.” In other words, the casinos wanted to tether to the Casinos like in New Jersey.

What’s in the new Maine sports betting bill?

The 2021 version of the bill does very little to alleviate those concerns. It also changes little, if anything, from last years’ version.

Mobile sports betting licenses in Maine would potentially be available for any “qualified gaming entity.” That would include sports betting operators licensed in other states and would not require partnerships with local casinos.

Maine risks losing quite a bit of tax revenue to neighboring jurisdictions if it does not get sports wagering passed this year. In fact, Maine’s direct neighbor to the South, New Hampshire, currently brings in large amounts of revenue from taxing sports betting.

Canada to the North and Connecticut to the south are looking forward to passing legislation legalizing sports betting this year.

The new bill would authorize the granting of sports wagering licenses under the auspices of Maine’s Department of Public Safety Gambling Control Unit.

The legislation sets forth that sports gaming licenses would be available to Sports betting operators through both land-based and mobile sportsbooks regulated in the state. It already has the support of the Department of Public Safety Gambling Control Unit. Each license will cost each operator $20,000.

The land-based licenses would be taxed at a 10% tax rate on retail income at brick and mortar establishments, while mobile revenue would be levied at 16%. In-state college betting would not be permitted under the proposed legislation; however out of State betting would be allowed. 

While Bill 1352 will be warmly received by proponents of a legal sports betting industry in Maine, it still needs to be approved by Governor Mills.

Even though there was broad support for last year’s bill, the Governor vetoed it on the grounds that it was premature, lacking insight into the experiences of other states’ efforts to legalize sports wagering.

In support of her position, she stated that “before Maine joins the frenzy of states hungry to attract this market, I believe we need to examine the issue more clearly; better understand the evolving experiences of other states, and thoughtfully determine the best approach for Maine. 

“That approach needs to balance the desire to suppress gambling activities now being conducted illegally and the need to protect youthful gamblers and those least able to absorb losses under a closely regulated scheme.” 

Will the bill have a better chance to pass this year? Given the fact that Governor Mills vetoed the bill because not enough was understood about the industry and the pitfalls affecting other States, significant time has passed to educate everyone. 

The bill introduced this year is almost identical to last years’ bill. It certainly will come as no surprise to the Governor that, in all likelihood, the same bill would be introduced this year.  The bill should move quickly through the Maine legislature and the committees charged with studying the bill. 

Hopefully, Governor Mills will have studied the issue, will appreciate the need for a regulated sports betting industry in Maine, and recognize the potential for much-needed revenue streams in the state.

I bet that Maine will get it done before the State legislature adjourns on June 16, 2021, and that this time the Governor won’t veto the bill.  It seems like sports betting is on the verge of passing in Maine!

Well, make sure to keep you updated as the situation moves on regarding Maine sports betting! So, make sure to come back to Usawager for more information about this topic.

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