Back in June, it was starting to look like gamblers in Maine would be betting on sports (legally) sooner rather than later. A bill to authorize in-person and mobile betting had no trouble working its way through the state legislature and made it to the desk of Governor Janet Mills for her signature to make it law.
Governor Mills, however, decided not to sign the bill. She did not outright veto the bill, but her decision has effectively put an end to Maine sports betting over the short term. The good news is the bill is not dead and may still become law in January if Governor Mills does anything other than veto it.
According to Sen. Louis Luchini, Governor Mills had some concerns about expanding gambling in the state. Maine is home to a modest gambling industry with two casinos, a lottery and laws allowing community organizations to hold games of chance for fundraising purposes.
Indian tribes are also allowed to hold high-stakes bingo games but do not have full-fledged gaming rights since tribal lands are subject to state law (under the Maine Indian Claims Settlement Act).
The legislature now has the right to recall the bill from her desk and amend it but does not necessarily need to do anything for it to become law. Since it passed both houses and just requires the Governor’s signature, it will become law three days into the next session if the governor does nothing.
The next legislative session gets underway on January 8th, making January 10th the next likeliest for legal Maine sports betting. If she does veto the bill, it will be sent back to the Senate where 24 votes would be needed to override the veto.
The bill only passed 19-15, making an override a longshot in that eventuality.
Maine Sports Betting Bill Details
Maine will be taking a “free market” approach to its licensing model. While many states require mobile sportsbooks to have a brick-and-mortar home base (i.e., a casino, racetrack, etc.), that will not be the case in Maine.
“To me, it’s a strange way to write a law that would require a new business to come into Maine only if they tether their license to an existing business,” Luchini told the Press Herald back in June. “We don’t require Amazon to tether to existing grocery stores, and we don’t require Airbnb to tether to hotels.”
In-person licenses will be restricted to commercial casinos, racetracks, off-track betting parlors and Native American tribes.
As for the particulars of the bill, some of the more notable points include a legal betting age of 21, a ban on wagers involving Maine college teams, a 10% tax rate on brick-and-mortar locations, 16% on mobile sportsbooks and a $20,000 licensing fee.
The Gambling Control Unit, which is a part of the Department of Public Safety, will assume oversight responsibilities. One percent of revenue will go towards the Gambling Addiction and Prevention Treatment Fund.
What Caused Governor Mills to Hesitate?
Governor Mills has not issued a public statement explaining her decision not to sign this bill, but sports betting was not alone in missing her signature. Governor Mills declined to sign more than three dozen other bills as this past legislative session came to a close.
In a statement addressing the nearly 40 bills she declined to sign, Governor Mills said this:
“The Legislature has passed a significant number of bills this session, and I take seriously my constitutional obligation to thoroughly review all of them, evaluate their implications and decide whether they are in the best interest of Maine people. I will continue to review these bills and gather more information, and I look forward to acting on them at the beginning of the next legislative session.”