Bill To Allow Tribal-Only Maine Sports Betting Is Still In Play

Written By Nicholaus Garcia on March 17, 2022
Tribal Sports Betting Bill Still Being Pushed By Maine Governor

State tribes in Maine are one step closes in their quest to become part of the gaming market in The Pine Tree State.

In February, state lawmakers and Maine Governor Janet Mills supported updated language in a new gambling bill giving state tribes exclusive rights to operate Maine mobile sports betting

This week, a Judiciary Committee advanced a tribal sovereignty bill with more sweeping changes by a vote of 8-6. But according to experts, a more narrow bill backed by the governor and the tribes is more likely to pass.

What’s next for the Maine bill?

This week, the bill passed out of committee would give three of Maine’s four tribes expanded authority over several resources.

Those items include:

  • Fishing
  • Hunting
  • Natural resources on their land
  • Sovereign immunity from being sued (unless waived)
  • Ability to tax people on their land 
  • Free from state income tax

However, Mills has been unwilling to let the state give up that level of control, instead offering a compromise. That compromise is, of course, exclusive rights to operate mobile sports betting. 

Milton Champion, executive director of the Maine Gambling Control Unit, estimates at least 85% of bets will come from mobile platforms. 

If the governor’s version of the bill passes, the Penobscot, Passamaquoddy, and Maliseet tribes would be allowed to operate sports betting in the state. The bill would still need to pass through the House and Senate and still has a chance at being vetoed by Mills. 

Maine casino industry is still pushing back

Chris Jackson, a lobbyist representing Hollywood Casino in Bangor, said it would be unfair to cut out the casino. 

In February, Jackson equated the situation to the state multi-purpose area during a hearing.

“It’s like saying you can build the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor, but you can’t host the high school basketball tournament here.”

There is language in the bill giving the two commercial casinos, Penn National Gaming and Churchill Downs, the rights to retail sports betting. However, that would only be available at OTB locations. 

In Penn Nationals’ case, it could only operate sports betting at its harness racetrack in Bass Park.  

“It’s just such a marginal location that it wouldn’t benefit anybody,” Jackson said. 

Photo by Sean Pavone
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Nicholaus Garcia

Nick has had stints in Chicago and Washington, D.C., writing about politics, financial markets, and sports betting. He graduated from Texas Tech University and completed his master's degree in journalism at Columbia College Chicago.

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