Why Maine Sports Betting Could Stop In November

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Maine sports betting

Maine lawmakers are considering changing some licensing issues, including one that could halt sports betting in November 2024.

The Maine Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee held a public hearing Monday for LD 2117, a bill that alters licensing terms for Maine sports betting. The bill would also extend temporary licenses past November, a stipulation potentially required to keep the industry live without interruption in the Pine Tree State.

“If the investigations aren’t done and we can’t issue a permanent license, we’d have to shut down operations, and we certainly don’t want to do that,” said Maine Gaming Control Unit Executive Director Milt Champion. 

LD 2117’s main component drops permanent licenses from four-year terms to one year. During the same hearing, Dan Walker, an attorney representing Churchill Downs’s Oxford Casino, said in-person sportsbooks in the state could be in jeopardy without some rules adjustments. 

Why Maine sports betting could halt 

Champion explained to the committee he issued temporary licenses to get Maine sports betting off the ground in November 2023 that will expire in November. Champion said background checks required to issue full licenses are ongoing, and he has not issued full licenses.

At least a portion of the delay is on the federal side of the checks and out of MGCU control, according to Champion. The extension would allow the MGCU additional time to finish the background checks.

Caesars and DraftKings are the two sportsbooks live in Maine.

Shorter ME sports betting license term

Another portion of the bill would shorten sports betting licenses from four years to one year. It also adjusts the licensing fees to align with a single-year term.

Champion told the committee shortening the licensing term would help ease the process for MGCU staff. He said tracking the information in the renewal application would be easier year-by-year.

The change would line up sports betting licensing with the other gaming the MGCU oversees.

Sports betting renewal obligations

Champion said the renewal application is four pages long and not a heavy lift for operators. The questions include:

There are 33 sports betting-related licensees in Maine.

“Tracking this information over four years is much harder to accomplish rather than on a regular basis,” Champion said. “Turning it over every year versus holding onto it for four years of information before renewing will help. We don’t want unintentional mistakes or oversights because of the length of time.”

Maine casinos support license term suggestion

Maine casinos, which can open in-person sportsbooks, support the legislation, according to Walker.

He reiterated the one-year terms would bring sports betting in line with the other gaming in the state.

“If you have two programs with different cadences, it can be problematic,” Walker said.

Casinos running into sports betting issues

While Walker had the platform, he said Maine casinos might not be able to open their in-person sportsbooks without some changes in regulations.

He said a “lack of flexibility” in the rules has kept the sportsbooks from opening.

A significant hurdle is surveillance, he said. Sports wagering rules require remote surveillance, but the Maine Gaming Control Board did not want to go forward with remote surveillance, according to Walker.

Hot topic in Maine

While Walker brings up a new issue, legislators are already discussing multiple gaming bills.

Last week, the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee held public hearings on three pieces of legislation, including legalizing online casinos.

Lawmakers also discussed expanding in-person gaming opportunities for the state’s tribes, and legalizing historical horse racing (HHR) and beano.