One Maine Proposal on Sports Bets Survives Legislators’ Ax

By Derek Helling

May 10th, 2019 - 10:15am

In a single day, seven potential sports betting bills in the state of Maine was dwindled down to one.

The state legislature’s joint Veterans and Governmental Affairs Committee voted down six of the seven sports betting bills before it on May 6. LD 553 was spared the carnage the other six bills faced and has been tabled for further discussion by the committee.

The committee will now take advantage of the blank slate the bill provides to try to forge a regulatory framework for legalized sports betting in the state.

Among the primary issues that are likely to be discussed by the committee’s members are whether sports betting will be primarily regulated by a state agency – and if so which – what rate to levy in a tax on sports betting revenues and how to move forward on mobile betting.

Those issues may be resolved quickly. Lawmakers reportedly expect a bill to appear on the full legislature floor by late May.

Indicators of Bill’s Regulatory Framework

Though the bill’s text includes almost no real language to this point, there is much that can be inferred from the language of the six bills that didn’t advance.

One of the bills would have put the state’s Native American tribes in charge of the state’s legal action on sports, and the fact that was nixed means that responsibility will instead likely fall to the Maine Gambling Control Unit, which already regulates the state’s casino industry. Native American gambling facilities could potentially be granted a sportsbook license in the eventual regulatory framework.

A comment by the Maine Gambling Control Unit director, Milton Champion, pegged his expectations for revenue for the state off of legal sports betting at $380,000 per year. That would represent a 10 percent tax rate on his projection of $3.8 million in handle, a rate which puts it in line with most other states.

While in-person betting options could prove beneficial to gaming purveyors, the greatest importance to citizens of Maine is the future of mobile sports betting.

Mobile Access Looms Large in Maine

The remaining bill includes mobile provisions, but according to the Portland Press Herald, there hasn’t been a lot of consensus of whether the state’s legislators are leaning more toward the Mississippi or the New Jersey model in that regard.

Mississippi allows bettors to place bets on their mobile devices but the devices must be within a geofenced location of physical sports books when the bets are placed. Conversely, New Jersey allows its residents to place mobile bets anywhere at any time.

How much support the legalization of sports betting has around the majority of the state’s legislature at this point is uncertain, but the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee reportedly seems determined to work out a compromise that could get the process completed very quickly. By the time the calendar turns to June, Maine could join the contingent of states on the verge of legalizing sports betting.

New England’s Sports Wagering Scene

If the bill passes, Maine might join a growing sports gaming market jumpstarted by its neighbors.

Rhode Island was one of the first states to take a legal wager, doing so in November of last year. Lawmakers approved mobile wagering in 2019, and should take the first online bet in the coming months.

Following Rhode Island, both Massachusetts and Connecticut lawmakers introduced legislation this year to take bets. Massachusetts is weighing its options and could also take wagers by the end of 2019. But Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont said this week that his state won’t get a deal done before this year’s legislative session ends.

Maine joins New Hampshire and potentially Vermont among the latest wave of New England states debating sports gambling. Should Maine pass its proposal, it could further galvanize its neighbors to do the same.
Written By
Derek Helling

Since graduating from the University of Iowa with a Bachelor of Arts degree, double-majoring in Journalism & Mass Communications and Sport Studies, Derek Helling has worked for small-town newspapers and written for various outlets, including FanSided's The Outside Game, Ozy and Legal Sports... Read More

Since graduating from the University of Iowa with a Bachelor of Arts degree, double-majoring in Journalism & Mass Communications and Sport Studies, Derek Helling has worked for small-town newspapers and written for...

Read More