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Legal Sports Report

Governor Sticks Maine Sports Betting Bill In Neutral Using Quirky Rule

Maine sports betting

Maine sports betting sits in purgatory after Gov. Janet Mills declined to sign a passed bill by Monday night’s deadline.

Maine Sen. Louis Luchini and Rep. Scott Strom told Legal Sports Report that Mills opted not to sign the sports betting legislation because of concerns about expanding gambling in the state.

An oddball rule allowed Mills to essentially ice the bill. She could still veto the bill within three days of the beginning of the next legislative session, whether that be a special session held this summer or next year’s regular session. If she again did not act within those three days, the bill would become law.

Options for sports betting bill

Luchini mentioned the possibility of a special session to try to work out a deal with the governor on the issue. The legislature can recall a bill from the governor’s desk to make adjustments.

“I’ve met with her and she expressed some concerns which resulted in her not signing the bill,” Luchini said. “I greatly respect her opinions and am happy to work with her on a resolution if possible.”

Luchini did not elaborate on the concerns expressed by the governor.

Maine sports betting going nowhere?

If the Maine legislative session was still ongoing when the governor’s window expired, Mills’ decision not to act would allow the bill the become law.

However, because the session adjourned, the bill is in a holding period until the legislature is back in session.

In Maine’s constitution, Article IV, Part III, Section II establishes:

If the bill or resolution shall not be returned by the Governor within 10 days (Sundays excepted) after it shall have been presented to the Governor, it shall have the same force and effect as if the Governor had signed it unless the Legislature by their adjournment prevent its return, in which case it shall have such force and effect, unless returned within 3 days after the next meeting of the same Legislature which enacted the bill or resolution; if there is no such next meeting of the Legislature which enacted the bill or resolution, the bill or resolution shall not be a law.

Non-veto leaves door open for negotiation

Both chambers of the Maine legislature passed LD 553 on June 19, the last day of the legislative session. That gave the governor 10 days (not including Sundays) to act.

When sports betting wasn’t among a bundle of bills that Mills vetoed immediately following the session’s conclusion, lawmakers were optimistic the governor would not stand in the way of the bill. That’s still a possibility.

“She doesn’t want her name on expanding gambling in the state,” Strom said. “She doesn’t agree with it, but people who have been meeting with her said she admitted there is a black market for it so she will let it slide.”

Will it be special?

A special session would allow legislators to work with the governor on the bill. If she still didn’t like it after three days, she could choose to veto. She also could officially allow it to go through without her signature.

“The fate of the sports betting bill is uncertain,” Luchini said. “At this point, we can work to amend or change the bill if needed at a special session or the next regular session.”

A vetoed bill requires a two-thirds vote by each chamber of the legislature to overturn.

Pine (Tree) not for sports betting … yet

At the time of passage, many lauded the Maine sports betting bill as a fine example of legislation.

While it is not dead yet, don’t expect to see legal sports betting in the Pine Tree State this football season.

“It’s disappointing to hear,” Strom said. “She signed the recreational marijuana law but she wouldn’t sign this. I’m a little shocked. I’ll just keep playing fantasy sports. That’s legal, and it’s not a whole lot different if you ask me.”

DraftKings Sportsbook provided LSR a statement about the bill:

“We appreciate the diligent work and comprehensive approach of Chairmen Luchini and Schneck, and the entire legislature, in passing legislation that if enacted will protect Mainers and deliver a blow to the thriving illegal market by embracing competitive, mobile sports wagering operations with robust consumer protections. We are hopeful that Governor Mills allows the bill to usher in an era of legal, regulated sports betting in the Pine Tree State.”

Matthew Kredell
- Matthew started his career as a sportswriter at the Los Angeles Daily News, where he covered the NFL, Kobe-Shaq three-peat, Pete Carroll’s USC football teams, USC basketball, pro tennis, Kings hockey and fulfilled his childhood dream of sitting in the Dodgers’ dugout. His reporting on efforts to legalize sports betting began in 2010, when Playboy Magazine flew him to Prague to hang out with online sportsbook pioneer Calvin Ayre and show how the NFL was pushing US money overseas by fighting expansion of regulated sports betting across the country. A USC journalism alum, Matt also has written on a variety of topics for Men’s Journal, Los Angeles magazine, LA Weekly and ESPN.com.

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