A Maine sports betting bill rolled forward last week but still faces an uphill climb to the end of the session this week.
The Maine House advanced tribal sovereignty legislation Friday that includes ME sports betting, 81-53. The bill, LD 585, gives Maine’s tribes exclusive access to mobile sports betting.
The Maine legislative session ends Wednesday, meaning the Senate would need to act on the bill this week. As the new proposal travels through the legislature, a bill passed last year still sits on the Appropriations Table.
Complex Maine sports betting situation
Last year, both chambers advanced LD 1352, which includes mobile licenses for the casinos and tribes and is technically still alive. Gov. Janet Mills, however, does not support the effort and previously vetoed a sports betting bill in 2020.
Mills included sports betting as a bargaining chip in a broader tribal sovereignty package moving through the legislature this year. Maine lawmakers have now passed multiple sports betting bills since 2019, and some think the new compromise is the best way to cross the line.
“I’ve lost confidence [in LD 1352] because it has lingered for so long without immediate attention or resolution,” Rep. Steve Moriarty said last month during a committee work session. “We ought to yield to the work that’s been developed. This by no means remains beyond the reach of the legislature in the future if further tweaking is required.”
Tribal exclusivity in Maine sports betting
LD 585 gives exclusive mobile sports betting rights to Maine tribes, creating four online licenses. Maine’s two casino operators and horse racing tracks could open retail sportsbooks.
The bill also provides tribal tax relief, and increases communication between the tribes and the state. The tribal sovereignty package, which also includes a more expansive bill that passed both chambers last week, aims to help make up for 1980 legislation limiting tribal rights.
“It will perhaps have an immediate impact on their prosperity,” House Majority Leader Michelle Dunphy said Friday, according to the Portland Press Herald. “It will also, however, be another important step in a long journey over 500 years in the making – the journey of our communities transforming themselves from conquerors and occupiers among a proud people to becoming neighbors.”
Casino amendment coming?
Of the lawmakers opposed to the bill, many were unhappy with the tribes receiving exclusive rights to mobile sports betting. During committee work sessions last month, members learned up to 85% of revenue comes from online sports betting.
A likely amendment in the Senate would also allow Maine casinos to operate mobile sports betting. Sen. Joseph Baldacci said the amendment would send 6% of online sports betting revenue from the casinos to the tribes.
“The amendment, while it’s being cloaked in fairness, is really detrimental to the tribal interest in that bill,” Penobscot Indian Nation Chief Kirk Francis said. “This is a tribal bill for a meaningful opportunity in Maine’s gaming industry and we believe the inclusion of casinos with online platforms is going to crush any opportunities for the tribes going forward.”