Milton Champion is eager to get to work on Maine sports betting rules.
The executive director of the Maine Gambling Control Unit even canceled his planned 10-day vacation in August, when the ME sports betting law goes into effect. Champion, however, is tempering expectations and said the rule-making process could take until 2024.
“It’s our time to do this, but it doesn’t mean we need to roll it out and be real fast about it,” Champion told LSR Friday. “I’m not going to sit on this stuff, I know how important it is to people. But I don’t want to rush this out and have Maine look bad.
“Rules don’t get done in a week. I hate to be disappointing to people, but I’d rather be realistic and then roll them out in six to eight months and have people happy because we did it so quick.”
What would be Maine sports betting holdup?
Maine sports betting legislation passed both chambers last month and Gov. Janet Mills signed it into law May 2, but it does not go into effect until August 2. The law grants online sports betting licenses to the four federally-recognized tribes in Maine, while casinos, tracks and OTBs can open retail sportsbooks.
While Champion said he would work behind the scenes on rules, the official process will not start until August. At that time, he will make two hires to help with Maine sports betting regulations.
Once written, the rules need public hearings, a written comment period and multiple legal reviews. Depending on any opposition, Champion said there could be several rounds of public hearings, which would prolong the process.
Too long to wait for Maine?
While Champion works to keep expectations low, he is disconcerted by parties speaking out against the idea it might take up to two years. He said the more parties cooperate and work together, the quicker it can launch.
An attorney for the Passamaquoddy tribe told the Bangor Daily News that “something has gone seriously amiss” if the rules take two years to develop.
Champion hopes his conservative estimate is wrong and said if it all goes smoothly, there is potential for Super Bowl LVII bets in Maine. That does not allow much room for industry pushback on proposed rules, which he said could greatly extend the process.
Maine set to learn from other states
Champion said he has kept an eye on states that legalized sports betting over the past three years.
He said several states have had hiccups in the process that he would like to avoid.
“I’m the executive director. I’m not going to do anything to embarrass myself,” Champion said. “I need to look into a lot of things, from acquisitions to violations. Shouldn’t I be looking at this industry a little longer than just willy nilly, ‘Here’s the rules and application, go for it.’”
State sports betting launches vary
Several states legalized online sports betting last year and took varying pathways to launch, while Maryland is still waiting for its online market.
Arizona and Wyoming both were up and running by September 2021 for NFL betting. Louisiana opened retail sports betting in November 2021, but online sportsbooks were not available until late January.
Maryland regulators, meanwhile, are still working to establish the guidelines for how mobile sports betting licenses will be awarded.