Following a Monday meeting of the Maine Legislature’s Joint Standing Committee on Veterans and Legal Affairs, lawmakers in the Pine Tree State are bullish on the prospect of a Maine sports betting bill passing in the state.
State senator Louis Luchini (D-7) – who serves as the committee’s Senate Chair – told the local WABI-TV5 news station that Monday’s discussions on regulating sportsbooks across Maine were productive:
“I think today went really well, actually.I think we’re in agreement on 95 percent of it, and it’s the last 5 percent that we’re just going to have to hash out by the end of the week. Hopefully, we’ll be able to vote on it and get a bill out to the full House and Senate.”
The joint committee assessed the merits of seven sports betting bills, before voting to cull that field to just a single Legislative Draft. That Maine sports betting bill, officially known as LD-553, is subtitled as “An Act To Ensure Proper Oversight of Sports Betting in the State.”
LD-553 is currently a shell bill containing no legislative language as of yet, but members of the committee spent Monday filling it out with desirable portions from the six other bills voted down. Luchini, the chief sponsor of LD-553, has told local media outlets that the committee plans to send a completed Maine sports betting bill to the full Legislature by “late May.”
Coinciding with the one-year anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court decision which struck down a federal ban on sportsbooks outside of Nevada, May has been a banner month for legislative progress.
Governors in Indiana, Iowa, and Montana signed sports betting bills into law over the last three weeks, bringing the count of legal states (including Nevada) to 13. The Governor of Tennessee, meanwhile, recently announced his intention to let the nation’s first online-only sports betting bill become law without his signature.
In an attempt to join Rhode Island as the only states in New England offering legal sportsbooks, lawmakers in Maine are looking to take an inclusive approach with LD-553.
So says the Portland Press Herald, with the newspaper reporting that Luchini and his colleagues plan to include both brick and mortar and online / mobile wagering.
Maine is home to a pair of land-based casinos – Oxford and Hollywood – along with harness racing tracks and bingo halls located on tribal reservation land.
Per comments made by Luchini, LD-553 will allow casinos, racetracks, and tribal bingo halls to apply for separate sports betting licenses:
“I’ve talked to a lot of people, who, because Maine has casinos and they allow gambling, they want to be able to go place a bet on the Patriots or the Red Sox. And so, I’ve heard a lot of people who are interested in expanding like many other states are looking at.”
Even as sports betting has garnered bipartisan support, the issue is still subject to opposition from conservative legislators who object to gambling expansion.
During the Monday hearing, state representative Josanne Dolloff (R-115) told colleagues that fears over compulsive gambling prevented her from supporting legal sportsbooks:
“I sure as heck don’t want somebody’s grocery money going towards this.”
According to Milton Champion – who serves as executive director of the Maine Gambling Control Unit, the regulatory agency which oversees Maine’s casinos and racetracks – the state forecasts annual revenue of $380,000 on $3.8 million in wagers.
And while lawmakers have yet to finalize licensing fees or tax rates, state representative and LD-553 co-sponsor Scott Strom (R-106) expects legal sports betting to be an economic boon:
“It’s going to provide more money for the casinos, for the off-track gambling places. We will get revenue from the online sources DraftKings and FanDuel. They will be providing like a state income tax for this.”
So my hope is that we will just collect that money and put it into the general fund and we’ll be able to use it to provide some good services to the state.”
Michael Sweeney – publicity director for the Scarborough Downs harness racing track – is similarly optimistic:
“This is an opportunity for industries that are home-grown, locally based, small mom-and-pop businesses to grow and thrive.”