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Lawmakers are poised to pass a bill that will legalize Maine sports betting throughout the state.
LD 553 stormed through the legislature Tuesday, stopping just short of full approval in each chamber. Members in both houses plan to cast the final votes needed to send the bill to Gov. Janet Mills this week.
The legislature will adjourn Wednesday, likely extending the recent trend of states passing sports betting bills at the last minute. Both Illinois and Indiana legalized sports betting on the very last day of their sessions this year.
The framework for Maine sports betting is mostly a good one. Per committee recommendation, it will have a fully open and competitive marketplace.
The bill would allow both retail and online sports betting via 11 properties — one racetrack, two casinos, four OTBs, and four tribal casinos. Unlike some state laws, however, this one does not require online sportsbooks to tether to land-based licensees. Companies without a physical presence in the state could still participate independently.
According to the Portland Press Herald, the sponsor simply couldn’t see the logic in tethering.
“We don’t require Amazon to tether to existing grocery stores,” Sen. Louis Luchini said, “and we don’t require Airbnb to tether to hotels.”
Taxes will be tiered, amounting to 10% of retail revenue and 16% of online revenue. While it’s hard to justify the split, both numbers fall within the established range elsewhere in the US. Licenses cost just $20,000 annually, though a possible typo suggests they could cost even less.
As holds true for every US sports betting law, the one in Maine does not include an integrity fee by any name. New York, in fact, seems to be the only state that is still considering a handout to enrich sports leagues.
The bill does, however, prohibit betting on in-state collegiate athletics.
The fiscal note attached to the bill projects $1.9 million in first-year state revenue from sports betting in Maine, growing to $5.6 million by year four.
Luchini’s proposal began in January as a one-line concept draft expressing legislative intent to “ensure proper oversight of sports betting.” As far as the public was aware, the committee on Veterans and Legal Affairs was still tweaking the language after submitting a divided report in May.
An amended version moved out of committee Tuesday, though, and the two chambers got right to work.
A suspension of rules facilitated two readings in the same day, with both groups adopting the committee amendment. The House was verbally decisive, but the Senate required a roll call to verify its 19-15 vote in favor.
Once engrossed with the amended language, the bill will head back into both chambers for the final votes.
In the year-plus since the US Supreme Court overturned PASPA, peer pressure has driven much of the expansion of sports betting.
Mississippi and Arkansas legalized sports betting too, driving the conversation into the South. Tennessee followed suit this year, surrounded by bills in every bordering state — even unlikely ones like Georgia and Alabama. Ambitious Louisiana almost got there, too.
Eight states have legal sports betting operations today, and another 10 jurisdictions have laws in place pending launch.