After approving a bill to expand gambling in Maine, regulators are hopeful sports betting could begin by Thanksgiving.
The timeline comes after Milt Champion, head of the Maine Gambling Control Unit (MGCU), and his agency published a second draft of rules to govern sports betting.
The updated rules and regulations now enter the public comment period until June 16. If no comments from the public and gambling stakeholders lead to substantial changes, then the rules move to the Office of the Maine Attorney General for approval.
Maine sports betting may be available by November
Last spring, Gov. Janet Mills signed a bill legalizing sports betting. Following Mills’ signature, Champion and his staff of two began work on the first draft of rules to govern sports betting. Champion’s first draft resulted in nearly 600 public comments.
Hopefully, according to Champion, rules will not need to be revised a third time. Speaking with the Portland Press Herald, Champion said:
“I think we have a good product at this point. I just don’t see any rhyme or reason to prolong this anymore. But we’ll see how the comments come out.”
Should everything go according to plan, the attorney general’s office will have up to 120 days to approve the rules once it receives them. Sticking with Champion’s timeline, the AG’s office could approve regulations in late October, leading to a launch soon thereafter.
“Best-case scenario, mid-November, we could go live. We could be live by Thanksgiving,” Champion said. “Even if the attorney general took the full 120 days, that still (enables) me to go live before Thanksgiving. What a great present that would be.”
Only one operator entering the Maine sports betting market
As for potential operators entering the state, the newly formed Sports Betting Alliance (SBA) said this month that it won’t pursue business in Maine. The SBA is comprised of:
Despite several big names coming off the board, Caesars Entertainment plans to enter the Maine market.
Earlier this month, Penobscot Nation Chief Kirk Francis announced a partnership between his tribe, the Maliseet and Micmac Nations, and Caesars Sportsbook. The tribes still need to apply for and be awarded licenses to operate mobile sports betting before the deal can be finalized.
Lastly, Champion must approve the partnership should the deal award Caesars 30% to 40% of the tribe’s revenue. Although Francis declined to comment on the deal’s financial terms, he did say all three tribes would “benefit equally.”
“We think this is the first time in the United States that three tribes have joined hands and gone with one partner. We think that’s good in a lot of ways, not only in our coalition as tribes but for the state of Maine.”
Francis added that “around six” companies approached the three tribes for business. “[Caesars has] a great track record with tribes.”
Through Maine sports betting law, the state’s four tribes receive exclusive rights to the online sports betting market. The fourth tribe, the Passamaquoddy, has yet to announce its partner.