With one day left to deliberate before the state’s constitutionally mandated deadline, the Governor of Maine vetoed a bill which would’ve legalized sports betting.
The Maine Legislature passed the sports betting regulation package back in June, with the state’s House of Representatives authorizing the bill in a unanimous vote and the state Senate providing its assent on the same day. Despite that broad bipartisan mandate, however, Governor Janet Mills declined to sign the bill into law during the initial 10-day window afforded to the executive branch.
At the time, Mills avoided offering any specifics regarding her objections to the bill, and legislative sponsors in both chambers remained optimistic that she would have a change of heart over the next six months. Under the Maine state constitution, Mills’ decision not to sign the bill during the 2019 legislative session shifted the focus to this year’s session, which began on June 8.
From there, Mills had until midnight on Saturday, January 11 to decide between signing the bill, allowing it to lapse into law without her endorsement, or exercising her executive veto powers to kill it outright.
And in a letter sent to state lawmakers on January 10, Mills did just that, tabbing the sports betting legislation as one of only three bills from 27 under consideration to be vetoed.
Governor Explains Her Decision to Deny Maine Legal Sports Betting
In her letter to the state Legislature, Mills began by expressing her appreciation for the “long hours and hard work” put in by lawmakers who guided the bill to passage.
Soon enough though, the Governor made it clear that she disagrees with the decision to legalize, regulate, and tax the sports betting industry at this time:
“I remain unconvinced at this time that the majority of Maine people are ready to legalize, support, endorse and promote betting on competitive athletic event.”
As fellow New England state New Hampshire begins to enjoy the economic benefits of its recently launched legal sports wagering market, Mills also referenced the proverbial “gold rush” occurring throughout the country since last year’s pivotal Supreme Court ruling to overturn a federal ban on sportsbooks outside of Nevada:
“Before Maine joins the frenzy of states hungry to attract this market, I believe we need to examine the issue more clearly; better understand the evolving experiences of other states; and thoughtfully determine the best approach for Maine.
That approach needs to balance the desire to suppress gambling activities now being conducted illegally and the need to protect youthful gamblers and those least able to absorb losses under a closely regulated scheme.”
The remainder of Mills’ two-page letter also cited “aggressive advertising” that could potentially attract underage bettors, along with “revenues (that) have fallen far short of expectations” in other states, as explanations for her veto.
Mills became only the second Governor to veto a sports betting bill since the Supreme Court decision in May of 2018, joining former Michigan Governor Rick Snyder in that regard.
Sports Betting Sponsor Reacts to Final Hour Veto
Asked about the end of a legislative journey nearly one year in the making, the bill’s sponsor state senator Louis Luchini (D-7) was magnanimous in his comments to the Portland Press Herald:
“I appreciate that she took a real thoughtful approach and researched the topic thoroughly and I’m willing to keep working on it to make it a more acceptable measure for anyone who has issues with it.”
From here, the Legislature will subject Mills’ veto to an override vote, one requiring a two-thirds majority in both chambers to supersede the Governor’s decision. That margin may be difficult to achieve, however, given the state Senate only approved sports betting in a narrow 19-15 vote.