Since PASPA was overturned by a federal judge in 2018, more and more states throughout the US have welcomed legalised sports betting. States such as New Jersey, Pennsylvania and, more recently, Tennessee have seen positive results from the introduction of regulation and rule to a service that was previously provided by offshore operators. Maine Lawmakers have crunched the numbers and submitted four sports betting bills for consideration this year in a desperate attempt to establish a legal market in the state. Three of these bills were rejected by a state committee earlier this month leaving one proposal remaining.
Earlier this month, the Legislature Committee on Veterans and Legal Affairs announced that they had rejected three proposals that sought to bring sports betting to the state of Maine. The decision was agreed upon by members of the committee who believe that directing their efforts to a wagering statute proposed by Senator Louis Luchini is the best course of action. The ideal outcome for lawmakers and politicians in Maine who are proponents of legal sports wagering is to present the Governor with a bill that has passed both chambers, that can be signed into law. In January last year, the Governor rejected a bill for sports wagering that was passed by the state’s legislature. Governor Janet Mills substantiated her rejection of last year’s bill by sharing that while she believed the proposal to be a good one from those lawmakers in the state who wish to regulate the black market activity. However, she remained unconvinced that the residents of Maine were ready to legalize, endorse, support and promote sports betting for competitive sporting events at the time. She concluded her substantiation by highlighting her concerns about the details of the bill which she believed to present inadequate measures to ensure that underage sports betting would not take place in the state.
The Governor has previously shared concerns that advertising campaigns for daily fantasy sports contests and sports betting that would be broadcasted on television and radio stations are aimed at attracting the youth. Chairman of the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee, Luchini, shared that lawmakers have agreed to collaborate in the development of sports wagering in Maine that will provide protections for underage residents and young children. He shared that the lawmakers agree with the Governor’s opinion that sports betting cannot target children wholeheartedly and sees how this could be dangerous. However, sufficient protections will be put into place.
Another complication for the passing of legal sports betting is the discussion around whether sports betting operators would need to go into partnership with existing commercial casino venues and pari-mutuel gaming facilities in the state. The two casinos in the state, Oxford Casino Hotel and Hollywood Casino Bangor, have lobbied for operators to be tethered to their operations.
However, Luchini’s proposal involves an untethered model that would allow for sportsbook operators to apply for mobile licenses without having to establish partnerships with brick-and-mortar venues. Luchini stated that he has introduced a free-market model to bring bettors in Maine greater variety and not to make casino operators more money.
The operator of the Hollywood Casino Bangor, Penn National Gaming, took to online platforms to share that this market-style could potentially cause problems. According to Penn’s Vice president of government relations and public affairs, Jeff Morris, the introduction of unlimited licensing in Maine’s sports betting market could result in many operators applying that do not have extensive knowledge of security and regulation entering the state. This could result in fraudulent and predatory practices that would burden the state.
According to Luchini’s first draft on the bill, online sportsbook operators would be required to pay an annual licensing fee of $20,000 each. The legislation, referred to as Senate Paper 1532, affords tax benefits for the state’s casinos. Retail sportsbook venues at the Oxford, Hollywood or pari-mutuel facilities would be taxed 10% on sports betting gross gaming revenues whereas online operators would be obligated to pay 16%.
Financial projections indicate that the state of Maine could receive around $5 million in annual tax revenue once the market reaches maturity.