The Maine sports betting market is shaping up, and while there is still no definitive timeline for a launch, Caesars will be part of it.
Maine Gambling Control Unit Executive Director Milton Champion told LSR this week that Caesars will be active in online ME sports betting after agreeing to a deal with three of Maine’s four tribes, which control online access in the state.
The MGCU also released its newest draft of proposed rules for the industry Wednesday, and while Champion said he did not alter much, he did ease up on some of the tightest advertising restrictions in US sports betting.
The MGCU will accept written comments through June 16, and if Champion chooses to move forward with the draft, he said a launch by January 2024 is still possible. If another round of industry feedback is needed, however, sports betting in Maine might not happen until deeper into 2024.
Landscape shapes up with Caesars
While Champion said he has yet to receive an application, he is starting to meet with operators interested in Maine. Earlier this month, the Sports Betting Alliance told LSR its members (BetMGM, DraftKings, Fanatics and FanDuel) will not seek online licenses.
Champion said Caesars will take up at least three of the four online access points through partnerships with the Maliseet, Mi’kmaq and Penobscot tribes. The Passamaquoddy have not entered an agreement yet, according to Champion.
BetMGM will partner with several OTBs in the state for in-person sportsbooks, he said. Penn Entertainment and Churchill Downs Inc. have casinos in the state, which makes Barstool Sportsbook and TwinSpires in-person sportsbooks likely.
Prohibitive sports betting market
The SBA members will not apply for online licenses in Maine because of the revenue-sharing structure in the state. Tribal operators will retain 50% of sports betting revenue while the state collects a 10% tax.
Online sportsbook operators will receive at least 30% of the revenue, with the possibility to escalate to 40%. Champion said he has not seen a contract for the tribal access.
Taking up most of the online access for Maine could provide Caesars a good setup if iGaming passes in the Pine Tree State. While the revenue sharing might not make sense with just sports betting, the more lucrative iCasino market could make sense for an operator, according to an industry source.
Few changes to Maine sports betting rules
While Champion received more than 500 comments, he said very little was changed in the new draft of rules. Champion previously told LSR he would not overhaul the rules.
Most of his alterations were “changing terms or words here and there.” The first draft of regulations was released in January.
“I didn’t highlight the publication with changes, I told everyone they have to do their homework,” Champion said. “I also would appreciate it if they don’t respond with previous comments because they’ll get the same answer.”
Advertising rules lighten a bit
Champion did not budge on allowing advertising for promotional credits. He did, however, alter his stance on requiring approval for every TV advertisement. He received plenty of opposition to the rule, including from the American Gaming Association.
The new draft requires operators to maintain a five-year log of all advertising and for it to be made available to Champion whenever he might ask for it.
“If you don’t let me come in the front door, I’m going in the side door,” he said. “… It’s a different direction, but the same result.”
As regulators across US sports betting look closer at the relationship between colleges and sportsbooks, Champion said he will watch colleges “like flies on you-know-what to make sure they don’t get out of hand there.” As for punishments, Champion said the maximum fine is $25,000, but any “screwups” will get the max fine.
Path forward in Maine
Champion said he hopes to send forward the rules after this round of comments. If changes are necessary, it could push the Maine sports betting process back another three to four months, he said.
“I would expect a couple dozen comments at most. I don’t see the rhyme or reason to dive in anymore,” Champion said. “This is up to the industry. If it’s something so significant they want to hold it up another six months, go for it. In this round, if it’s something they can live with and we can revisit it later, let’s do that.”
After the comment period ends in June, Champion will be on vacation for two weeks before either working on a new draft or sending it to the Attorney General. The AG’s office then has 120 days to approve the rules, at which point Champion hopes to be able to issue licenses as quickly as possible.
Champion not excited about iGaming
“Let’s wait until the sports wagering ink dries,” Champion said. “We need to get that done and cleared up.”