Maine Sports Betting Bill Still in Committee
The last time a bill legalizing Maine sports betting made it through the legislature, the state’s Governor Janet Mills vetoed it over concerns of marketing to children and illegal gambling organizations. In the latest legislative session, four bills were introduced to Maine’s lawmakers, with only one still under consideration.
Maine is just the latest in a long line of states that have considered legislation to legalize sports betting, with the practice approved for implementation in at least 28 states since the Supreme Court of the United States overturned the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) in 2018.
The ruling allowed all 50 states to decide whether they want to have sports betting legalized in their jurisdictions, and while over half have done so, the details of how it’s implemented vary greatly from state to state. Maine has been grappling with the issue of whether to require sportsbooks, both online and retail, to be associated with an existing physical location within the state.
The tethering issue has been addressed in states like Virginia, where it is using legalized sports betting as a drive to allow casino gambling that they hope will bring economic development to disadvantaged areas. In Michigan, the tethered approach is being used as a way to bolster an already existing casino industry with a mix of commercial and tribal locations.
The lone proposal sponsored by Sen. Luchini
The lone proposal that has survived the legislative process puts forward the untethered approach and is sponsored by Sen. Louis Luchini, the same legislator who led the effort for the bill that was vetoed during the prior session. Although the bill is still alive, it has yet to make it out of committee and is facing opposition from those in support of the tethered model, including existing casino operators like Penn National’s Hollywood Casino and Raceway.
The governor’s opposition that includes concerns over the involvement of illegal gambling organizations, is one grounded in extreme naivete. First of all, Maine has no Big Four professional sports franchises, so any interest in major events in the state is minimal.
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Secondly, one of the primary reasons to legalize sports betting is to decrease the influence of illegal “rings,” as Mills referred to them, by discouraging its residents from turning in that direction to find wagering opportunities. I would think she would be more concerned with the potential for rogue lobsters or bootlegged maple syrup than illegal gambling “rings” in the 42nd most populous state in the Union.
If the bill that emerges from the Maine legislature doesn’t look significantly different from the one approved in the prior session, it’s uncertain whether the governor will sign it, given her apparent lack of knowledge about the sports betting industry. If Mills’ reasons for her veto were sincere, then those in favor of sports betting probably have an uphill battle.
However, if she was just providing those opposing views to mask other issues, then they need to address those other political concerns if they want to get the bill passed and let their 1.3 million citizens have access to the same sports betting opportunities as those in 28 other states.