Following a public hearing on proposed rules in January, legal Maine sports betting appeared in sight, but the image is now fleeting.
After the relatively uneventful hearing, Maine Gaming Control Unit Executive Director Milton Champion thought ME sports betting could launch by June. The full public comment period on the initial proposed rules ended last week, leaving Champion less optimistic about the state’s prospects.
“I hate to be negative, but the process is the process,” Champion said. “After coming out of the public hearing with no real comments, thinking this is great, now we’ll be lucky to have it done by January 2024.”
Sports betting comments flood Maine
Champion said there are more than 580 comments from 24 separate parties. He and his lone staff member must sort through each to approve or reject them.
A deputy director starts April 3, which Champion said should help push along the process. Still, it might not be until late May when a new round of proposed rules is released.
“Just give me the eight or 10 compliance people that Massachusetts has,” Champion said.
Many of the comments came on his strict advertising rules, which include no deductions for promotional credits. The rules also prohibit using celebrity sportspeople on TV.
ME sports betting pushes forward
Champion initially predicted it could take until 2024 for legal sports betting to debut in Maine. His original timeline came shortly after Gov. Janet Mills signed sports betting into law last year.
Maine’s four tribes each receive an online sports betting skin under the sports betting law. Casinos and OTBs can run in-person sportsbooks. Champion said he is unaware of what sportsbook operators are interested in the state because the comments came from attorneys.
In working up his original proposed rules, Champion said he studied multiple other states and hoped to avoid hiccups. He will continue to roll out proposed drafts as long as comments come in.
“We have 580 some comments now, next we’ll get maybe 300 and then after that hopefully 100,” he said. “As I mentioned, I’m definitely not changing a whole lot. I want to see some more push back and rationale. People aren’t going to see my responses and rationale until this is all said and done. So I want to see how many rounds its takes to throw the towel.”
Maine late to New England sports betting party
Champion hoped to be up and running with sports betting by summer so visitors to the state could keep betting.
Maine is a popular summer destination for New Englanders, who are now accustomed to online sportsbooks.
With Massachusetts launching online sportsbooks Friday, nearby states are flush with sports betting options.