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Maine House Leaves Online Casino Bill’s Survival Up To Senate Colleagues

Written By Derek Helling | Updated:
exterior of maine capitol building

If pieces of legislation had a measurable pulse, a bill to give tribal authorities within Maine exclusive control over online casino play in the state might be showing a faint signal right now. That proposal is effectively in need of some emergency intervention at this time.

On Tuesday, the Maine House of Representatives narrowly communicated a negative sentiment on the bill. While the Maine Senate has an opportunity to keep the bill alive, that might simply be prolonging the inevitable.

Maine online casino bill meets fate in State House

While there was optimism around the proposal to legalize online casino play in Maine under the auspices of tribal gaming authorities earlier this week, that took a turn. On April 9, LD17771 failed in the Maine House by three votes, 71-74.

The bill’s sponsor, Maine Rep. Laura D. Supica, told Randy Billings of the Portland Press Herald2 that “much of the concern comes from the fact that it is exclusively for the tribes.” Billings also reported that other members of the state House would like to see online casino licenses available for the state’s commercial brick-and-mortar casino operators, supporting Supica’s assessment.

Supica expressed that not all hope is lost just yet, however. In a statement to Heather Fletcher of Bonus.com3, she commented that “the hope is the Senate will pass and we will recede and concur. Now, folks are on the record and folks can try to flip their votes.”

It’s a unique wrinkle in Maine’s legislative process that is giving LD1777 one last chance to progress.

How the Maine House could vote on LD1777 again

In Maine, legislative committees can issue diverging reports on single pieces of legislation. That was the case for LD1777 from the Joint Committee on Veterans and Legal Affairs. Thus, the larger bodies received recommendations from that committee not to pass LD1777 and to approve LD1777 simultaneously.

While the Maine House voted down the recommendation to pass by that three-vote margin, they did forward the recommendation not to pass the bill to the state Senate. As Supica alluded to, the Senate now has a chance to defy that recommendation and pass the bill anyway.

Maine Senators voted to table LD1777’s recommendation not to pass on April 10, meaning that no vote on the bill is currently scheduled. The body could take up the issue at any time, however.

Should the Maine Senate actually vote to approve LD1777, the Maine House would take up another vote on the proposal. The bill’s tabling does give proponents of the bill some time to try to find at least four members of the House willing to change their votes and make some inroads in the Senate.

However, that time is short. Also, even if that effort is successful, there’s another obstacle looming.

Governor Janet Mills’ veto is a real possibility

In the past, Maine Gov. Janet Mills hasn’t been the most amenable to expanding tribal interests in the state. She vetoed a bill in 2020 that would have given the tribes exclusive control over legal sports betting in the state.

A proposal that gives tribal authorities exclusive control over online casino play, which is far more lucrative than sports wagering, may prompt a similar result. At the same time, Mills did sign the 2023 version of the bill that created a similar system to the 2020 bill for sports betting in Maine.

Mills has not publicly expressed any sentiment on LD1777 yet. Still, the threat of a veto by Mills could make efforts to flip votes in the House more difficult. That is if LD1777 gets that far, of course.

Adding another degree of difficulty is that the Maine legislature only has through April 17 to process LD1777. The regular session for 2024 ends on that date.

All of that adds up to the likely scenario being that proponents of legalizing online casinos in Maine will have to try and build on this momentum in 2025. Outside of providing economic stability to the tribes and enhancing their sovereignty, supporters might tout the economic impact of online casino gaming for the state at large.

New gaming means new revenue for state services

Maine legislative staff have estimated4 that in its first full fiscal year, Maine would reap over $4.6 million in tax revenue off online casino play under the tenets of LD1777. There has been some concern that the bill’s 16% tax rate for such gaming is too low. That could be something that a last-minute amendment this week or a new bill in 2025 might address.

For her part, Supica proposes that the new gaming could produce $100 million for the state over the next five years. Among the state services LD1777 earmarks tax revenue for are the Gambling Addiction Prevention and Treatment Fund in addition to the Emergency Housing Relief Fund.

Some data is useful for gauging the accuracy of these estimates. Those estimates might be quite conservative although much could change.

Are existing online casino revenue estimates for Maine accurate?

There are now four full months’ worth of Maine sports betting numbers on record. In March, for example, Mainers wagered almost $47.6 million5 of which sportsbooks won around 6.2% or almost $3 million.

After allowable adjustments, that translated to $270,606.66 in tax revenue for the state. The tax rate for adjusted sports betting revenue is 10%. March represented the high end of the small data set available.

For December through March, Maine sportsbooks won over $17.7 million from bettors. Using that number to power a very simplistic projection, a conservative estimate for online casino gross win in the state comes to just over $100 million for a full year.

A 16% cut, as LD1777 currently proposes, would amount to around $17 million in annual tax revenue for the state. That would surpass Supica’s estimate of $100 million in the first five years slightly and blow by the legislative services’ figure by a considerable margin.

If the tax rate goes up, that would naturally increase the total. Alternatively, that simple estimate doesn’t take into account any deductions the state might allow licensees to claim. Such provisions would decrease the sum.

Currently, though, the figures exist only in the realm of the hypothetical. The only tangible concern right now for LD1777 is convincing an adequate number of Maine Senators to support the bill.

Sources

  1. 131st Maine Legislature – LD1777 ↩︎
  2. House folds on bill to give tribes exclusive internet gaming rights ↩︎
  3. Maine Online Casino Defeated in House, Has Chance in Senate ↩︎
  4. 131st Maine Legislature – LD1777 Fiscal Note ↩︎
  5. Sports Wagering Revenue | Dept. of Public Safety ↩︎
Photo by AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty
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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is the assistant managing editor of PlayUSA. Helling focuses on breaking news, including finance, regulation, and technology in the gaming industry. Helling completed his journalism degree at the University of Iowa and resides in Chicago

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