Casinos for youMaine is on the cusp of joining the exclusive list of US states with regulated sports betting. As we wait for the projected Thanksgiving debut, let’s take a step back and highlight the vital strides Maine took to get here, shall we?
The Pine Tree State’s date with destiny is edging closer. Milt Champion, the head of the Maine’s Gambling Control Unit expressed optimism that the state’s regulated sports betting era could be ushered in by Thanksgiving.
Speaking to the Portland Press Herald, Champion informed the public that his agency had published the latest draft of proposed rules that will oversee sports wagering within state lines. Given the time it has taken for this milestone to be achieved, it is fair to say that the journey to where we are today hasn’t been a walk in the park.
Four-Year Struggle Towards Sports Betting Regulation
Maine’s first move after the repeal of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) came in 2019 when legislators introduced a bill that would have legalized mobile and sports wagering in the State. A year later, in 2020, Governor Janet Mills, a Democrat vetoed the move. She explained her veto by saying that she wasn’t convinced at the time that the majority of Maineiacs were ready to legalize, support, endorse, and promote betting on competitive athletic events.
As you can imagine, the legislators who had passed the sports betting bill were not particularly impressed by this move from Governor Mills. Come February 2020, the Maine Senate voted 20-10 in an attempt to override Governor Mills’ decision and consequently sent the bill LD 553 to the House of Representatives. This bill would however meet its untimely death in the House of Representatives via a blowout 85-57 vote, effectively ending hopes of the State legalizing sports betting in 2020.
Over a year down the line, in April 2021, Senator Louis Luchini took up the mantle of ensuring the Sports betting agenda makes a comeback by introducing a bill to the House of Representatives. This bill would be passed, but not before including amendments that did not quite sit well with Sen Luchini. That said, the bill was approved and set to be tabled to Gov. Mills to append her signature. It however faced a setback as it needed to go through the Appropriations Table where it stalled and fizzled out until the closure of the legislative calendar.
Interestingly, in 2022, Gov Mills somehow changed her tune on sports betting and led the drive to have sports betting legalized in her jurisdiction. The process then took off from there, and the Pine Tree State legislators passed a sports betting bill in May 2022, which was then signed into law by Gov. Mills.
The Way Forward For The Pine Tree State
As things stand, the Maine Gambling Control Unit’s proposed sports betting regulations will be subject to another public comment period until June 16th. When this period elapses, it will be up to the state gaming regulatory agency to decide whether the rules will need more beefing up, or stay as they are. Once this is decided, the regulations will be moved along to the State Attorney General’s office.
Attorney General Aaron Frey’s office will have 120 days to go through the fine print relating to the regulations and formally approve them. After that is done, then there is hope that sports betting could premiere in the state before November, barring any unforeseen circumstances. Even if the AG’s office takes the full 120 days to approve the regulations which is highly unlikely, projections still place the November date as a realistic date for legal sports wagering to kick off in Maine.
Sportsbook Brands Already Positioning Themselves for Entry
In its present form, Maine’s sports betting legislation is tailored to benefit the Native American tribal nations the most. Under the law, the Pine Tree State will require 40% of the gross revenue to be retained by the sportsbook operators. Meanwhile, 10% will go to the state tax coffers while the tribes in partnership with the sportsbook operators will retain 50% of the revenue.
Further, the sports betting law gives Maine’s four tribes exclusive rights to negotiate with sports wagering providers. So, as we speak, three of the four Native American tribes, the Penobscot, Maliseet, and Micmac tribal nations, have all partnered with industry giant Caesar’s sportsbook to handle their sports betting operations. However, the state’s fourth tribe, the Passamaquoddy Native American tribal nation is yet to disclose which route it will take on the matter.
On the other side of the coin, the 50% revenue share awarded to the Native American tribes has discouraged a handful of other renowned US sportsbooks from seriously considering a Maine entry. A newly formed sports betting alliance that involves FanDuel, DraftKings, Fanatics, and BetMGM, recently announced that they won’t be dipping their toes into the Pine Tree State’s sports wagering market.
The Clock is Ticking for Maine
Champion is hoping that the businesses interested in the Maine sports betting industry will apply sooner to kick off the licensing process. This is a major factor that will determine whether there will be a postponement of the official sports betting debut date.
For one, applications for licenses take time to go through. Additionally, when you consider that Champion’s regulatory body is greatly understaffed, deep concerns emerge as to whether the Thanksgiving timeline will be met. This is why Champion is calling for interested parties to get in those applications now, rather than waiting to apply as the November date draws closer.
The strict advertising rules that had likely kept interested parties at bay were amended to be more liberal. So, with such actions, we expect that Maine will be ell-populated with lots of great potential suitors.
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