Maine sports betting legislation is almost on its way to Gov. Janet Mills.
The ME Senate passed LD 585 Tuesday night, 23-11. The House, which originally advanced the bill last week, concurred with a minor amendment shortly after the Senate passage.
The ME sports betting language is a small piece of broader tribal sovereignty legislation. Mills, who vetoed a sports betting bill in 2020, is expected to sign LD 585 after a stop at the Appropriations Table – where a piece of sports betting legislation from 2021 still sits.
“The bill is now sitting on the appropriations table. That is where the sports betting bill from last session went to seemingly die after passing both the House and Senate last year,” Maine Gambling Control Board Chair Steven Silver told LSR. “It does not appear that LD 585 will suffer the same fate since this was the Governor’s preferred bill.
“However, with this legislature, nothing is final until the ink is dry.”
Maine sports betting bill sees small change
The legislation gives Maine’s four federally recognized tribes mobile sports betting exclusivity.
An original version of LD 585 left the state’s commercial casinos and race tracks out of ME sports betting entirely.
They were eventually cut in with retail sports betting. An amendment Tuesday gave the Penn National Gaming casino in Bangor retail sports betting instead of the horse racing track it manages.
Mills trying to make everyone happy?
Mills negotiated many of the aspects of the bill with the state’s tribes, including the mobile sports betting exclusivity. LD 585 also strengthens state-tribal communication and eases tribal tax liabilities. Mills does not support a larger tribal sovereignty bill that passed both chambers last week.
“In the prior two sports betting bills that passed in 2019 and 2021, the tribes were always cut in,” Silver said. “The difference now is that the governor decided to grant the tribes a monopoly on mobile wagering as a consolation for her opposition to granting full tribal sovereignty rights.
“There are bigger political issues at play heading into a contentious election season and in this case, the tribes won big while the casinos suffered a pretty big blow.”
Old Maine bill dies
Some senators expressed disappointment with the process, as it effectively kills LD 1352, which still sits on the Appropriations Table after passing both chambers last year. That bill gives both commercial gaming entities and the tribes mobile sports betting access.
Mills does not support the legislation passed last year. Several senators spoke against the process of the new bill.
“Members of this body voted for mobile sports betting in our previous session and the process this bill came forward through excluded members from both chambers. We had worked all this out,” Sen. Bradlee Farrin said on the floor. “We talked and included the tribes in the previous legislation we passed through here. The chief executive did not include the people in that process.
“As we wonder sometimes why the people of the state of Maine don’t always have faith in our work, here is how this piece of legislation came to be.”
Mobile sports betting importance
Farrin proposed an amendment to strip the sports gaming piece from the legislation. The amendment failed.
He desired a conversation about the importance of mobile sports betting compared to retail operations. Farrin also wanted to further explore how the legislation replaced the bill passed last year.
During a committee work session last month, legislators learned mobile sports betting will likely make up 85% of the action in Maine.