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Late Efforts To Pass Maine Online Casino Bill Fall Short

Written By Derek Helling | Updated:
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Maine’s LD1777 for the state legislature’s 2024 regular session has failed, and with it, any foreseeable hope of expanding the map in the United States for regulated online casino play in 2024 is put to bed. The question now becomes how long that slumber will last not only in Maine but the broader nation.

Despite the addition of a last-minute amendment in the Maine Senate on Tuesday, the Maine House of Representatives defeated the proposal that would have given tribal gaming authorities within Maine control over licensed online casinos in the state. That exclusivity might be a matter of negotiations in the future.

Maine House rejects altered online casino bill

Maine’s LD1777 ultimately fell short by five votes in the House late on April 16, despite getting an endorsement from the Maine Senate. The Senate advanced the bill earlier Tuesday by a six-vote margin. However, it was substantially different from its original version.

Most importantly, the Senate-amended version included a provision to put the question of gaming expansion to Maine voters in November. Had LD1777 been enacted with that language and voters approved, tribal gaming entities in the state could have expanded their partnerships with existing online gambling companies to include online casino play.

For Mainers, that could have meant access to Caesars Palace online casino and DraftKings Casino. While that’s still possible in the future, there are questions about just how far into the future that may be a real possibility again.

Will online casino proponents try again in 2025?

The sponsor of LD1777, Maine Rep. Laura D. Supica, seems resigned to the bill’s fate for 2024. Supica told Heather Fletcher of Bonus.com that the bill is “dead” for the session. To date, though, Supica has been mum on whether she will file similar legislation in subsequent terms.

Even if she doesn’t, though, it seems there are allies of the cause in the Maine Senate. For example, Maine Sen. Joe Baldacci proposed the referendum amendment that ultimately got LD1777 through that body.

At the same time, that action doesn’t mean that Baldacci would champion an effort to legalize online casino play in 2025 or beyond. Rather, Baldacci might simply feel comfortable playing a sort of supportive role toward that end.

One major obstacle that any future legislation toward this end will probably face is a pertinent issue that plagued LD1777 for 2024.

Tribal exclusivity could prove a barrier to expansion

Among the issues that swayed Maine legislators against LD1777 was the fact that it expanded tribal control over online gambling in the state. That issue may continue to prove to be an obstacle to similar bills in the future.

Opponents of LD1777 expressed that they would like to see the state’s commercial casinos also be able to offer online casino products in Maine. Future legislation with such a provision could garner the support of those legislators.

However, making that alteration may equate to digging one hole to fill another. A deviation from tribal exclusivity may result in the loss of as many votes as it would gain. There isn’t much of a middle ground on that issue, either.

That speaks to larger issues across the country when it comes to online casino legalization. Maine is no island when it comes to significant obstacles to expansion.

Is Maine a snapshot of online casino legalization efforts across the US?

While not all states have tribal gaming authorities that dominate regulated gambling within their borders, many do. In those places, such authorities are similarly desirous that any expansion of gaming should take place under their purveyance as opposed to being opened up to commercial operators.

At the same time, such frameworks rub against the grain of commercial operators in such jurisdictions. Even in states where this tension does not exist, other concerns could stand in the way.

Those include objections to further gambling expansion on its own merits and fears that online casinos will take revenue away from brick-and-mortar gaming establishments. So far, those have proven insurmountable obstacles in many states.

A path to conquering them isn’t clear. Short of such achievements, though, legislation that will legalize online casino play in more of the US will probably continue to meet the same fate as LD1777.

Photo by Robert F. Bukaty/AP photo
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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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