Maine sports betting will have to wait at least one more year.
The state’s 2021 legislative session adjourned Monday with sports betting legislation still on the Appropriations Table, the committee which reviews bills that make or cost the state money.
The inertia means the ME sports betting effort is dead until next year’s session.
What happened to ME sports betting?
Bill LD1352 was approved by the Maine House twice, and sent to the Appropriations Table at the start of July. However, there it stalled.
Local sources suggested the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Louis Luchini, was not fully behind it because of the tethering requirement. Luchini previously spoke out against the final bill because of that requirement for mobile licensees to partner with local gambling outlets.
“Tethering is bad for our constituents,” Luchini said in June. “It’s anti-competitive. It makes the casinos the gatekeepers of who will be able to operate in Maine.”
The bill was passed with the tethering intact, however.
Did Zoom harm sports betting effort?
Milton Champion, the executive director of the Maine Gambling Control Unit, said the lack of in-person meetings was the biggest reason the 2021 effort failed.
“It just didn’t have the punch this year,” Champion said. “It never felt like there was the same interest as last year and that was due to the pandemic in my opinion.”
Champion, however, was positive for 2022, saying some key issues had been ironed out.
“It’s like a statue,” he said. “You chip away at it every year and eventually get a finished product. It’s a matter of when, not if, for Maine sports betting.”
Future murky for ME sports betting
That said, the tethering issue is not going away. The powerful local casino lobby, including Penn National, is strongly pro-tethering.
Penn said last year it supported ME sports betting only for those who had “invested hundreds of millions of dollars in the state.” But now it appears key online sports betting proponents are staunchly anti-tethering.
That’s before a bill even gets to Gov. Janet Mills, who has vetoed sports betting legislation in the past.
Bad news for Maine tax coffers
In the meantime though, Maine’s failure is New Hampshire’s – and DraftKings’ – gain. Maine bettors will continue to cross the border to place wagers in NH.
What’s more, other parts of New England are also moving forward with betting.
Massachusetts is considering sports betting legislation this week, while Connecticut is also moving forward with legalization.
Neighboring Canada also just repealed its ban on single-game sports betting.
It all means Mainers will continue to place wagers but other regions will reap the tax benefits.