Last Updated Apr 27, 2022, 2:12 PM

Maine Senator Adds Amendment to Tribal Sports Betting Bill

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The effort to bring legal sports betting to Maine took another twist earlier this month. State Senator Joseph Baldacci proposed an amendment to LD 585. This is the current piece of legislation that would legalize sports betting in the state.

His amendment would have extended legal mobile betting to a pair of in-state commercial casinos. Both Hollywood Casino Hotel at Bangor Raceway and Oxford Casino Hotel would still be allowed to add a retail sportsbook.

Under the current provisions of LD 585, Maine’s four tribal casinos would be granted a license to offer retail and mobile sports betting. Collectively known as the Wabanaki, this list includes the Micmac, Maliseet, Penobscot and Passamaquoddy tribes.

In a press conference to announce his amendment, the Senator stated that all the parties involved in the matter are looking for a “win-win.” He added that “we’re not looking to create divisions.”

Kirk Francis is the Penobscot Nation Chief. In his comments to local media, he stated:

“This tribal bill is about trying to overcome decades of issues around access to gaming by tribes. This was a negotiated bill with the Governor’s office and we tried to be as inclusive as possible. This amendment will basically render the bill meaningless for the tribes. This is a tribal bill that is attempted to be hijacked by the casinos.”

With a little more than 13 million residents, Maine would not be one of the biggest legal markets in the US for sports betting. However, adding legal betting would be a significant boost in revenue for the four gaming tribes.

Maine Gambling Control Unit Executive Director Milton Champion set a projection of $6.9 million in sports betting revenue annually for the state. Currently, Maine brings in $60 million annually from in-state casinos.

Maine Governor Janet Mills first took office in 2019. One of her stated tasks was to improve relations with the in-state tribes. This latest development clearly put her between a rock and a hard place on this issue.

Her goal was to bring legal sports betting to the tribes. However, opposition to full exclusivity on the matter remained among certain Republicans in the state Senate. As a means to appease the state’s gaming tribes, Senator Baldacci’s measure would earmark 6% of total mobile sportsbook revenue to the tribes.

Both the Governor’s office and tribal leadership quickly voiced their opposition to the plan. Any further concessions to the commercial casinos would impact tribal economic sovereignty.

Apparently, this has been a reoccurring issue between the gaming tribes and state lawmakers over the years.

The Democratic majority in the state Senate prevailed. LD 585 was passed by a vote of 23-11 to preserve tribal exclusivity for legal sports betting in Maine. The last step in the process is Gov. Mills’ signature.

Written by Dave Schwab, our US Sports Betting Industry Expert.

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