Maine Governor Janet Mills supports updated language to a proposed gaming bill that would give state tribes exclusive rights to operate ME mobile sports betting.
Commercial casino operators Penn National Gaming and Churchill Downs will most likely oppose the new language. Under the latest revisions, which have not been added to LD 1626, they would not be eligible for mobile licenses.
Where Maine sports betting currently stands
Under LD 1626, the four tribal entities would have exclusive rights to operate online sports betting in Maine. Additionally, existing OTB’s could build retail sportsbooks. LD 1626 classes with a similar bill, LD 1352, which Mills vetoed in 2020 after passing through both chambers.
LD 1352 permits statewide sports betting tethered to existing casinos and horse racetracks. Under this bill, Barstool Sportsbook (PNG) and TwinSpires (Churchill Downs) would be granted mobile licenses.
Since 2018, sports betting has been legal in Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island. In doing so, they have left Maine on the outside looking in.
Multiple issues at play
In addition to the expansion of gambling, LD 1626 would also amend state tax laws to benefit federally recognized tribes in the state.
The four federally recognized tribes, collectively known as the Wabanaki Nations, are:
- Maliseet Tribe
- Micmac Tribe
- Penobscot Tribe
- Passamaquoddy Tribe
Each tribe has its own government. However, none have casinos or any form of gaming.
In an op-ed in the Bangor Daily News, Mills’ chief counsel, Jerry Reid, identified sports betting as an avenue to fulfill the Tribes’ desire for gaming.
“We have identified online sports betting, which is already the subject of a bill pending in the legislature and which many states have legalized already, as an avenue to fulfill the Tribes’ desire for gaming opportunities while avoiding the issues associated with building new casinos. We are now working together on legislation that would make the Tribes, rather than out-of-state corporate gaming interests, the primary beneficiary of online sports wagering in Maine.”