Maine sports betting efforts in early 2020 very nearly resulted in the legalization of retail and mobile sportsbooks across the state. Governor Janet Mills scuttled those plans at the last minute with a veto, but not all hope is dead as there is clearly support for legal sports betting on both sides of the aisle.
In the meantime, daily fantasy sports offer the next closest alternative to full-fledged sports betting in Maine. Major providers such as FanDuel and DraftKings accept customers from Maine and are regulated by the Gambling Control Unit.
Additionally, online horse racing betting is legal through HollywoodRaces.com, the only advance deposit wagering operator approved in Maine.
Where to Bet Online Legally in Maine
Games of Skill:
The land-based gambling industry in Maine is fairly young. The state first legalized slot machines in 2004 and then Hollywood Slots opened in 2005. It wasn’t until 2008 that Hollywood Slots moved into its new facility and became Maine’s first actual casino venue. In 2012, Hollywood Casino added table games and became the state’s first full-fledged commercial casino.
The Oxford Casino opened in 2012 to become Maine’s second and only other gambling establishment. Although that puts the total number of casinos in Maine at just two, it shows the state is in an expansion mode.
As far as online poker and casino sites go, there’s not much to report on that front. The state has no immediate plans to expand its online gambling options beyond what is already legal.
Sports Betting in Maine
Maine joined the list of states considering sports betting in early 2019 when it was revealed lawmakers would be discussing multiple bills seeking legalization.
Later, lawmakers introduced LD 553 to legalize in-person and mobile sports betting in Maine. The bill looked quite promising for players and the industry alike as it set the groundwork for a competitive environment.
LD 553 looked very likely to pass in mid-2019 after the state legislature approved it and sent it to the governor’s office for one final signature. However, Governor Janet Mills declined to sign the bill.
Normally, a governor’s lack of signing a bill would set in motion a waiting period after which the bill would become law without action from the governor. However, a quirk in Maine law actually pushed the bill over to the next legislative session.
Governor Mills took up the bill again in January 2020 and surprised most watching the story by vetoing the bill. The Senate came back in February and overrode her veto with a two-thirds majority vote, but the House was unable to muster enough votes to sustain the override. In the end, Governor Mills’ veto was successful.
Maine will likely revisit the sports betting issue in the future. The fact that the bill had enough support to not only pass a bill through the legislature but also to nearly override the governor’s veto shows there are many who support legalization.
Governor Mills vetoed the bill in January, which seemed to crush Maine’s sports betting hopes. However, the Senate came back in February and overrode her veto with a two-thirds majority vote. Next, the House will hold a vote and if that vote also attracts a two-thirds majority, sports betting will be legalized in Maine.
LD 553: The Maine Sports Betting Bill That Almost Was
LD 553 is dead but could serve as a preview of what to expect should Maine take up the sports betting issue again. The bill would have allowed casinos, racetracks, off-track betting facilities and tribal gaming groups to apply for in-person and online betting licenses.
Additionally, “qualified gaming entities” would have been allowed to apply for online betting licenses. In other words, national operators such as DraftKings and FanDuel would have been able to enter the Maine sports betting market without having to partner with local land-based facilities. Under LD 553, qualified gaming entities were defined as follows:
“a gaming entity that offers sports wagering through mobile applications or digital platforms in any jurisdiction in the United States pursuant to a state regulatory structure.”
LD 553 also sought to establish an inexpensive licensing structure. Retail sports betting licenses would have cost just $2,000 while online-only licenses would have cost a flat $20,000.
Fantasy Sports Sites
Maine did not pass DFS regulation until 2017, but that did not stop the major DFS sites from operating throughout the state with no negative repercussions prior to 2017. Legislators finally got around to drafting a regulatory bill in 2017 and it became law on August 2nd of that year.
DFS laws in Maine are not overly burdensome: fantasy operators must apply for a license from the Gambling Control Unit and pay a fee of $2500 if their revenue for the previous year was $100,000 or greater. Operators with revenues less than that do not have to pay a licensing fee at all. Licenses must be renewed every twelve months with the same fee structure.
As far as regulations go, Maine opted to pass legislation similar to what many other states passed around the time. Employees of DFS sites are not allowed to participate at all, and athletes and officials are prohibited from participating in contests that involve their respective sports. Fantasy sites must keep player funds separate from operating funds and the minimum age to play in Maine is 18.
Horse Racing Betting in Maine
Maine’s horse racing industry has seen better days, but the state does still host two harness racing tracks and a handful of OTB locations that offer parimutuel wagering on races held across the country. Additionally, one US-based racing betting site operates in Maine and accepts customers 18 or older.
The Maine State Harness Racing Commission serves as the state’s regulatory body over parimutuel betting and the conduct of harness races.
Online Racing Betting in Maine
Maine is home to two harness racing tracks, eight parimutuel horse racing fairs each year and a handful of off-track betting locations (OTBs). Additionally, residents 18 and older may bet online through HollywoodRaces.com.
Racetracks in Maine
Maine is home to two harness racetracks that both hold live races and accept parimutuel wagers.
Maine OTB Locations
The Harness Racing Commission also oversees off-track betting facilities (OTBs) and a full list of authorized OTBs can be seen here.
- Winners Circle OTB Lewiston
- Favorites OTB Waterville
- Favorites OTB Sanford
- Winners OTB Brunswick
- Winners Circle OTB at Scarborough Downs
- Hollywood Casino Bangor Racetrack OTB
The Maine Lottery does not sell tickets online but it does offer a subscription service for customers 18 or older with a Maine mailing address. Subscriptions may be managed online, but payment is only accepted via check or money order sent by mail.
Lottery players may purchase subscription plans online that run for 13 weeks, 26 weeks or 52 weeks. Each subscription automatically enters players into two drawings per week for the duration of the subscription.
The games offered include Tri State Megabucks, Powerball, Mega Millions and Lucky for Life. Prices for subscriptions range from $52 to $208 depending on the game and length of subscription.
Maine does not authorize the sale of individual tickets or subscriptions online other than through the official state website.
Gambling Laws of Maine
The Maine Gambling Control Board was established in 2004 in order to oversee the first slot machine facilities introduced to the state. Now, it serves as a regulatory body over the state’s two land-based casinos and any future casinos.
Maine’s gaming laws inflict significant penalties on those who organize or “advance” gambling but appear to have no measures in place to punish those who merely participate as players. The state defines gambling with the following text:
“A person engages in gambling if he stakes or risks something of value upon the outcome of a contest of chance or a future contingent event not under his control or influence, upon an agreement or understanding that he or someone else will receive something of value in the event of a certain outcome.”
The state considers it a Class D crime if a person profits from an unlawful gambling activity or plays a slot machine under the age of 21. Note here that “profiting” does not mean acting as a player; it means earning money by hosting an unauthorized gaming operation. The punishment for a Class D crime is up to 364 days in jail and up to $2,000 in fines.
Additionally, one can be charged with a Class B crime if he or she hosts an unlawful gaming activity that accepts more than 5 bets totaling more than $500 in a 24 hour period or receives more than $1,000 in a 24-hour period for hosting an unlicensed lottery, mutuel or other gambling scheme. The punishment for this one is much stiffer at up to 10 years imprisonment and up to $20,000 in fines.
Some interpretations of existing law may expose individual gamblers to prosecution for merely participating as players, but the state has never charged someone for placing wagers online. Still, it would be best to avoid doing business with illegal online casinos or sportsbooks. Maine looks increasingly likely to legalize online betting at some point, so the best thing to do now is hang tight until lawmakers decide the best way forward.