Maine sports betting got stuffed at the goal line in 2021.
The state’s 2021 legislative session adjourned in late July with sports betting legislation still on the Appropriations Table, a committee which reviews bills that make or cost the state money.
The inertia means the state’s sports betting effort is dead until next year’s session.
Local sources suggested the bill’s own sponsor Sen. Louis Luchini had started lobbying against it because of the tethering requirement.
What’s happening in Maine sports betting right now
- July 20, 2021 — Gov. Mills is spared from having to make a decision on sports betting right away. Both versions of the bill stall out on the Appropriations Table and remain there as the 2021 legislative session closes out for the year.
- July 2, 2021 — A hiccup emerges for Maine as it turns out that SB 1352 is not ready for Gov. Mills just yet. In fact, the bill must proceed through the Appropriations Table and be approved as budgetarily sound before it can move on to the governor.
- June 23, 2021 — A successful vote in the Maine House of Representatives potentially puts a sports betting bill in front of Mills yet again. The situation is almost identical to the previous year, with Mills having 10 working days to respond to the bill but the legislative session before that. Mills could choose to do the exact same thing: put the bill in a drawer and wait until the early days of 2022.
- June 1, 2021 — After a month of debate, the Maine Senate passes SB 1352 and sends it to the House of Representatives for approval. The bill’s sponsor, Louis Lucchini, declines to vote in favor of this version of his bill. He cites concerns about the tethering element, which was amended into the bill, because it yields too much power to the casinos.
- May 3, 2021 — Lucchini’s bill now has three competing bills that aim to legalize sports betting in Maine. Although there are various differences between the four, the key point of disagreement centers around the notion of tethering licenses to Maine casinos. Lucchini’s bill and one other do not require an in-state connection to operate, but the other two bills do.
- April 9, 2021 — Undaunted by the failure of LD 553, State Sen. Louis Lucchini proposes SB 1352 as a new attempt to make sports betting a reality in the Pine Tree State. SB 1352 notably advances the idea that mobile sportsbooks in Maine need not be tethered to a Maine-based entity in order to operate.
- Feb. 11, 2020 — Hopes for legalized sports betting in Maine dissolve as the House of Representatives fails to override the governor’s veto. The legislative body needed a count of 94-48 to sustain the motion, but came up short by nine votes.
- Feb. 6, 2020 — The Maine Senate votes to override Mills’ veto of LD553 by the slimmest of margins. As is the case in Congress, a veto override requires two-thirds of the vote to pass. The override motion receives exactly that amount — 20 Maine senators voted to override against 10 who said nay. The motion to override now moves to the House of Representatives, where a successful vote makes sports betting legal in Maine.
- Jan. 10, 2020 — Maine Gov. Janet Mills vetoes LD 553, a 2019 bill that would have allowed both mobile and retail sports betting to proceed throughout the state. In a letter sent to lawmakers, Mills reveals that her veto is due to her uncertainty about how prepared the people of the Pine Tree State are for sports wagering. She goes on to suggest that further study of the topic is warranted at this time, rather than legalization.
What happened to ME sports betting in 2021?
However, there it stalled reportedly thanks to opposition from sponsor Sen. Louis Luchini.
Luchini previously spoke out against the final bill because of the 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, before it died in Appropriations.
2021 went the same way as 2020
The failure in 2021 comes after another close shave in 2020.
After the legislature passed a sports betting bill in 2019, Gov. Janet Mills used a quirky rule to delay her decision to 2020. She then vetoed the bill in January, but the Senate reached the high two-thirds threshold needed to overturn the veto.
It seemed like the House was poised to complete the veto override until the governor lobbied to protect her decision. Now Mainers will have to wait until 2021 for another chance at a regulated option to bet on sports, or else go next door to New Hampshire.
Recent Maine sports betting news
Legal sports betting options in Maine
Aside from betting on horse racing, there are no legal sportsbook websites that accept bets from anyone within the state of Maine.
There are illegal offshore websites that offer sports betting in Maine. They do not hold a license from any US jurisdiction to legally accept bets from residents.
Without regulation from the state, these offshore betting apps can’t be counted on to pay out winnings and have been known to disappear with people’s money.
The only safe and protected way to bet on sports in the United States is to do so with a licensed operator.
Most popular/potential sports to bet on in Maine
With a population of just 1.3 million people, Maine has no professional sports teams nor any major college athletic programs.
However, as part of New England, Mainers have a lot of love for the Boston-area teams such as the New England Patriots in the NFL, Boston Celtics in the NBA, Boston Red Sox in Major League Baseball and Boston Bruins in the NHL.
Maine and Daily Fantasy Sports
Sites that operate in Maine include DraftKings, FanDuel, Yahoo!, and Fantasy Draft.
The Gambling Control Unit within the Department of Public Safety regulates fantasy sports.
Only sites with in-state revenue in excess of $100,000 need to pay a license fee of $2,500 annually and a 10% tax.
The minimum age to participate in fantasy sports in Maine is 18. The law prohibits based on collegiate or other amateur events.
Is horse racing legal in Maine?
Yes, Maine has harness racing with wagering at Scarborough Downs from April to December and Hollywood Casino and Raceway (owned by Penn National Gaming) from May through November.
The Maine State Harness Racing Commission provides oversight and support for the industry, which also includes four off-track betting parlors in the state.
Maine sports betting timeline
2020: Mills makes Maine mad
When the Maine legislative session resumed on January 8, Gov. Mills had three days to veto the prior year’s Maine sports betting bill or allow it to become law.
On the final day, she cited concerns about expanding gambling in the state as she vetoed the bill.
In her veto statement, Mills wrote:
“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.”
It seemed unlikely that the Maine legislature, with an overwhelming Democratic majority, would be willing to override the veto of a governor from their own party.
However, lawmakers showed their strong support for legalizing sports betting in Maine by making a strong push for the override.
Senate President Troy Jackson waited three weeks for the right combination of members to be present to hit the two-thirds threshold to overturn the veto.
Rep. Strom was confident all along that the votes to override were there in the House.
However, after the governor lobbied to protect her veto, House Speaker Sara Gideon ran the vote immediately. Although 85 representatives votes to overturn the veto compared to 57 who wanted it to stand, the override failed. Ninety-four votes were needed to reach the two-thirds requirement.
Maine seemed to come out of nowhere to pass a sports betting bill through both chambers on the final day of the legislative session in June.
In the bill, Maine sports betting would be authorized at 11 properties — one racetrack, two commercial casinos, four tribal casinos and four off-track betting parlors. Online operators also are allowed to enter the state without partnering with land-based entities.
Gov. Mills declined to sign the bill but also didn’t veto it within 10 days. In most states, the bill becomes law with no action from the governor.
Maine’s constitution instructs that, if the legislature is no longer in session, inaction stalls the decision to the first three days of the next legislative session.
Maine sports betting FAQ
Is sports betting legal in Maine?
No, right now there are no legal options for sports betting in Maine. Any site claiming to offer legal betting is an unregulated offshore sportsbook operating illegally in the United States.
Who would oversee betting in Maine?
The Gambling Control Unit established as a bureau within the Maine Department of Public Safety would oversee ME sports betting, as it does with daily fantasy sports.
Will mobile sports betting be allowed?
Most likely. The vetoed bill permitted online sports betting in Maine without requiring companies to tether to land-based properties.
There are some sports betting websites that say they accept bets from the United States. Are those legal options?
No. There are currently no sportsbook operators that are licensed at the federal level, which means all US sportsbooks are licensed at the state level. Any website that suggests betting from anywhere in the US is allowed is a website that operators offshore. It is not legal for those sites to accept bets from US citizens and those sites offer no protection to those who bet on them.