The honeymoon phase for sports bettors in The Pine Tree State came to a bitter end on Monday. Governor Janet Mills choose to place a Maine sports wagering bill on hold less than three weeks after the state’s Legislature passed the piece of legislation.
Legislative Draft 553 sailed through both the Maine state Senate and House of Representatives on June 18, and the Maine sports wagering bill was then sent to the desk of Governor Janet Mills.
At the time, state representative Scott Strom (R-106) and LD-553’s sponsor in the House told Legal Sports Report that he and his colleagues expected Mills to sign the Maine sports wagering bill into law:
“As far as we’re aware, any vetoes she was going to issue were issued. She didn’t veto it, so we’re pretty confident she’ll sign.”
Mills had 10 days to lend her signature to LD-553, but in a surprising twist, the Governor ultimately declined to do so. She had a 10-day window to work with, but Monday’s deadline came and went without Mills taking action.
Following that unexpected development, state senator Louis Luchini (D-7) – the Senate’s LD-553 sponsor – told Legal Sports Report that he and Mills have been huddling to discuss her objections to creating a regulated sports betting market in Maine:
“I’ve met with her and she expressed some concerns which resulted in her not signing the bill. I greatly respect her opinions and am happy to work with her on a resolution if possible.”
But when pressed about the specifics of Mills’ concerns, Luchini declined to offer further insight into the Governor’s thinking.
While voicing his personal objections, Lee stated that he would respect the will of legislators and allow legal sports betting to take place.
In Maine, however, Article IV of the state’s Constitution includes a caveat requiring the Legislature to be in session for a signature-free bill to become law. Because the Legislature had already adjourned its regular session before Mills’ 10-day signing window came to a close, LD-553 was essentially frozen in place until the next legislative session begins.
That could be either a special session called during the summer months, or the upcoming 2020 regular session.
In either case, Mills will have three days from the start of the session to exercise her executive veto powers to kill the bill. She could also elect to take Lee’s approach and let it become law without her signature, or reverse course and sign off after her “concerns” have been taken into account.
But as Strom told Legal Sports Report in the wake of Mills’ recent decision not to sign, that outcome would be a decided longshot:
“She doesn’t want her name on expanding gambling in the state. She doesn’t agree with it, but people who have been meeting with her said she admitted there is a black market for it so she will let it slide.”
Legislators sent more than 700 bills to Mills’ desk during the 2019 session, but only 39 were held in place without a veto or a signature.
In his comments to Legal Sports Report, Strom expressed dismay that Mills was able to sign off on controversial measures like recreational marijuana legalization, but not a common-sense sports betting regulation effort:
“It’s disappointing to hear. She signed the recreational marijuana law but she wouldn’t sign this. I’m a little shocked. I’ll just keep playing fantasy sports. That’s legal, and it’s not a whole lot different if you ask me.”
As for Luchini, he told the industry news outlet that work will continue in either a special session or next January’s regular session:
“The fate of the sports betting bill is uncertain. At this point, we can work to amend or change the bill if needed at a special session or the next regular session.”