A new bill, LD1777 proposed in the Maine Legislature would legalize online gambling for the Wabanaki Nations, the state’s four federally recognized tribes.
Titled “An Act to Create Economic Opportunity for Wabanaki Nations Through Internet Gaming,” the bill would give the Wabanaki exclusive rights to operate online casinos and sportsbooks, which was legalized in 2022 but has yet to launch.
The bill was submitted by Rep. Laura Supica, who was one of 20 representatives endorsed by the Wabanaki Nations in 2022.
Why online gambling in Maine would be unique if LD1777 becomes law
Should Lupica’s bill pass, the gambling landscape in Maine would be radically different. No other state in the nation has a similar online gambling arrangement with a federally recognized tribe or tribes.
Two other parts of the bill would make online gambling in Maine a unique operation:
- The bill says that “each federally recognized Indian nation, tribe or band in this State may receive only one Internet gaming license under this section.” This seems to indicate the Wabanaki Nations could get one license for all four tribes, or all four tribes could get separate licenses. In either case, the operator would have to offer both sports betting and online casinos.
- The bill makes no changes to the current law that limits an operator’s share of sports betting revenue to 30%, with some wiggle room to bump that up to 40% in certain cases.
These two wrinkles in the Maine bill limit the number of operators the tribes can work with because only certain companies offer sports betting and online casino gaming. However, those limits aren’t necessarily negative. For example, FanDuel, DraftKings, and Caesars provide both services. So, while the pool of candidates may be small, the remaining companies are sportsbook heavyweights.
The bill’s other regulations are pretty standard for online gaming agreements that include sports betting:
- A license cost $200,000 and is good for four years
- The renewal fee for a license is $200,000
- A temporary license is available for $200,000 and is good for one year. This could help the Wabanaki Nations get to market faster while it awaits full approval.
- Creation of a self-exclusion program that allows users to ban themselves from wagering
- Banning advertising that targets people who are younger than 21
Why the new online gambling bill in Maine matters
Among the many factors that make the online gambling landscape unique in Maine is the fact that the federally recognized tribes are not part of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA). In the context of gambling, this means that the tribes do not have the right to conduct Class III gaming on tribal land.
The Wabanaki Nations’ exclusion from IGRA meant they had limited options for gaming revenue. For example, instead of casinos, tribes opened bingo halls.
When Gov. Janet Mills signed the bill to legalize sports betting, it provided a financial lifeline of revenue for the tribes. That lifeline will become far more substantial if Supica’s bill passes. Online casinos typically generate tens of millions of dollars of monthly revenue.
Public comments about advertising restrictions may have shaped new bill
As Maine legislators consider Maine’s LD1777, the Maine Gambling Control Unit (MGCU) published public written comments about its proposed sports betting regulations.
Several entities, including the American Gaming Association (AGA) and the Passamaquoddy Tribe, criticized the MGCU’s inclusion of stringent advertising regulations.
For example, the proposed regulations prohibit:
- Handing out flyers or offering in-person sportsbook sign-ups
- The use of alcohol and tobacco in ads
- Ads featuring cartoon characters, professional athletes, or Olympic athletes
According to an article by the Legal Sports Report, the AGA wrote to the MGCU saying:
“Particularly in new markets, advertising helps to inform the public about which sportsbooks are legal, as well as to ensure customers receive responsible gaming messages. Placing broad and overly burdensome restrictions on legal sportsbook advertising will only exacerbate the competitive advantages enjoyed by illegal operators and hamper efforts to effectively draw customers into the regulated market.”
The arguments from the AGA and the Passamoquoddy Tribe seemed to have made their way to Supica’s desk. Her bill significantly reduces the restrictions on advertising, removing the bans mentioned above.