Maine Governor Janet Mills (D) signed Legislative Document 585 this week to legalize sports betting. But legal gambling on professional and certain college sports could still be a year or more out.
LD 585 provides Maine’s four federally recognized tribes with the exclusive rights to operate mobile sportsbooks. The state’s two commercial land-based casinos — Hollywood Casino Bangor and Oxford Casino Hotel — will be given in-person retail sports betting privileges.
The gaming expansion is being used by Mills and her administration to provide equity and inclusion for the four tribes. But the law greatly overhauls Maine’s relationship with the federal Indian groups, as it engages the two sides into an economic business relationship for the first time.
The bill signed by Mills this week tasks the Maine Gambling Control Unit with developing governing conditions that will oversee and regulate sports betting in the state. The legislation mandates the types of sports permitted to be bet on, how much licensing fees will cost, and what sort of tax will be imposed on revenue.
The rulemaking process, which must include several public hearings and a comment period is expected to take eight to 18 months to complete. That’s plus the required forthcoming hiring of two Gambling Control Unit employees who will be solely focused on sports betting.
The Maine sports betting law requires that each tribe wishing to participate in mobile sports betting pay a one-time $200,000 fee to the state. The state’s casinos can receive their in-person sportsbook licenses for just $4,000.
The great disparity in the licensing fees is because of the projection that 85% or more of the forthcoming sports betting revenue will be realized online. Both online and brick-and-mortar sports betting income will be subject to a 10% tax.
The average time from a governor’s signing to the first bet being placed in states that have passed mobile sports betting laws is around five and a half months. But officials in Maine say it will likely be eight to 18 months before the tribal internet sportsbooks go live.
As director, I will not take any shortened measures to regulate [sports betting],” said Milton Champion, executive director of the Maine Gambling Control Unit.
The state plans to issue casino sportsbooks and tribal online licenses at the same time, meaning the retail books will not begin operating free of competition.
“We’ve actually had people calling us for years asking when sports betting is coming, so we’re glad to at least finally be able to say, ‘Yes, it’s law. Stay tuned.’ Unfortunately, it’s going to take longer than I think most people expect,” Austin Muchmore, general manager of Hollywood Casino Bangor, told the Bangor Daily News.
Since Maine’s tribes have no experience running a casino or sportsbook, the sports betting law requires the Native American entities to partner with experienced third-party operators like DraftKings and FanDuel. At least one tribal official, however, says such a business arrangement will not take much time.
Corey Hinton, an attorney representing the interests of the Passamaquoddy people, believes the state should handle its sports betting rulemaking in a much shorter time frame than suggested.
“Something has gone seriously amiss if rules take until 2024,” Hinton declared.
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