Lawmakers in Maine are set to consider a handful of bills to be introduced this year seeking to legalize and regulate sports betting.
Each of the bills under consideration will take a different approach, with some giving local casinos the right to offer sports betting and others looking to add mobile betting to the mix. One bill reportedly will allow Maine’s tribal groups to get involved as well, ending a long gaming drought for the tribes that have so far been cut out from the gambling industry.
The Portland Press Herald reports the texts of these bills is still being written, but sources have provided some details regarding the shape some of these bills will take.
Two Bills to Be Introduced by Senate President Troy Jackson
Maine Senate President Troy Jackson will be sponsoring two different bills this session dealing with online sports betting. According to the Press Herald, these bills will authorize mobile betting and allow wagers on college sports except events involving college teams based in Maine.
Jackson’s spokeswoman told the Press Herald that the “general idea is to establish a regulatory structure for sports betting in Maine after the US Supreme Court ruling this past spring. It also gives the Gambling Control Board significant authority to regulate sports betting.”
Senator Jackson also co-sponsored a bill last year that successfully legalized and regulated daily fantasy sports in Maine. That bill was introduced in June and eventually became law after then-governor Paul LePage opted not to intervene.
Representative Benjamin Collins to Introduce Sports Betting Bill
One bill to be introduced by Benjamin Collins will reportedly look to bring the tribes on board by allowing them, along with the state’s existing casinos and off-track betting locations, to participate in the emerging sports betting industry.
There are few details on this bill, but Representative Collins told the Press Herald that he’s in talks with the tribes right now. He said the tribes “still feel a little skeptical” about being involved in sports betting or other gambling ventures. He admitted it probably will not be “an opportunity for them to make a ton of money, but maybe a little bit.”
The tribes’ skepticism is understandable at this point. Maine’s Indian tribes have been shut out of the gambling industry for decades despite tribes in other states being heavily involved in casino gaming.
Under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988, tribes must reach agreements with state governments in order to offer casino-style gambling and sports betting (Class III gaming). While tribes in numerous other states have gotten heavily involved in gambling, Maine’s tribes have been shut out time after time.
Past tribal efforts to open casinos in Maine have been shot down by opponents who have argued that authorizing additional casinos would cannibalize the state’s existing gaming industry. Currently, two commercial casinos serve Maine’s population of just over 1.3 million residents.
Maine Gaining Momentum
Calls for legal sports betting in Maine are gaining in both frequency and volume since the Supreme Court overturned the federal sports betting prohibition last year. With at least three bills set to be introduced this year, the odds that Maine legalizes sports betting have improved significantly over recent months.
Senator Louie Luchini has reportedly endorsed one of the sports betting bills to be introduced, which is convenient because he was also recently appointed to chair the Joint Standing Committee on Veterans and Legal Affairs. In addition to dealing with veterans’ issues, election laws and ethics issues, the chair also deals with gambling law.
Having him plus Senate President Jackson on board will boost the state’s legalization efforts. That makes it two pro-betting lawmakers in key positions with considerable political capital.
Furthermore, the news that no fewer than three bills are set to be introduced this session is a sign of growing support for sports betting. The trick will be negotiating and compromising to get lawmakers and industry stakeholders all on the same page.
Increasing pressure from other states’ legalization efforts may also propel legislators to take action in Maine. A common argument from politicians in other states advocating sports betting is that as neighboring states legalize the activity, those states draw entertainment and tourism dollars across state lines.
With Rhode Island already passing legislation and New York likely to do so as well, the legal sports betting movement is slowly creeping in closer to Maine. We’ve also seen legislation pass in other Northeastern states including New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania and Washington DC.