Maine Squeezed: Mills Vetoes Bill To Legalize Sports Betting

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Maine sports betting

Gov. Janet Mills vetoed on Friday a 2019 bill to legalize Maine sports betting.

Mills sent her veto letter to the legislature with a detailed explanation of her denial:

I believe this bill is a good effort by those who wish to bring out into the open a black market activity that is practiced by many now and who want to regulate that activity without over-regulating or overtaxing it so as to drive it back underground. The bill is a step forward towards achieving that delicate balance.

But, respectfully, I remain unconvinced at this time that the majority of Maine people are ready to legalize, support, endorse and promote betting on competitive athletic events.

Before Maine joins the frenzy of states hungry to attract this market, I believe we need to examine the issue more clearly; better understand the evolving experiences of other states; and thoughtfully determine the best approach for Maine. That approach needs to balance the desire to suppress gambling activities now being conducted illegally and the need to protect youthful gamblers and those least able to absorb losses under a closely regulated scheme.

Why Maine sports betting took so long

The Maine Legislature approved a sports betting bill at the end of its 2019 legislative session. Under Maine law, the governor can elect to take extra time with a bill passed within seven days of the end of the session.

Mills chose not to address the Maine sports betting bill last year. That allowed her to wait until the first three days of the 2020 session to decide on the measure.

The governor also retained the option to allow the bill to become law without her signature.

Mills joins a select club

Mills becomes just the second governor to do so since the start of legal US sports betting in 2018. Former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder rejected a late 2018 effort to legalize sports wagering, though the state later approved sports betting.

Her veto letter also took a turn for the bizarre with her rationale on state revenue potential:

We are also told that the state can access new revenues by legalizing sports betting. But for the more than dozen states that have enacted legislation regarding this form of gambling, revenues have fallen far short of projections for a variety of reasons, and the economic impact of mobile sports gambling on preexisting facilities, given the potential saturation in the market, is uncertain.

In addition, while legalized sports gambling may attract some revenue to the state coffers, the same economic premise in theory would justify legalizing all forms of gambling: betting on the weather, spelling bees and school board elections, for instance.