Maine Finally Legalizes Sports Betting

It’s been more than a long strange trip for legal sports betting in Maine. In 2019, the Maine legislature – with bipartisan support – passed a model sports betting bill the embraced a fully free market with mobile and retail licenses. But Governor Janet Mills vetoed the bill claiming she was unconvinced Mainers wanted legal sports betting and fearing wagering on spelling bees and Little League. (seriously, can’t make that part up).

The same month of Gov. Mills’ veto, New Hampshire launched and has since raked in $1.25 billion in handle with $37.8 million in tax revenue for the state. The Maine Senate successfully voted to override Gov. Mills’ veto, but the House fell a few votes short of the 2/3 vote needed to override the veto.

Undeterred, the legislature passed another sports betting bill cutting casinos, tribes, and OTBs into mobile and retail sports betting. It seemed to have unanimous support, but then it died on the appropriations table.

Despite the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee spending three-plus years working on sports betting legalization, the Democratic leadership moved a bill into the Judiciary Committee that gave the state’s four federally recognized Indian tribes, known as the Wabanki Nations. a monopoly on mobile wagering. And get this, it originally cut the casinos out. Ultimately, what passed permits casinos and OTBs to offer largely worthless retail-only sports betting with the tribes maintaining a monopoly on mobile wagering. Maine loves reinventing the wheel.

Legal sports betting should launch sometime in early 2023. Here is Steve’s breakdown of Maine’s peculiar law:

Maine Legislators Take Major Step Toward Legal Sports Betting” – Sports Handle

Maine Sports Betting Bill Likely Heading To Governor” – Legal Sports Report

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Unanimous SCOTUS Slams NCAA’s Amateurism Charade

In today’s hyper-polarized world there is at least one thing everyone can agree on — the NCAA is a sham. And all nine United States Supreme Court justices agree.

Today, SCOTUS handed down a rare, unanimous 9-0 decision in NCAA v. Alston, slamming the NCAA’s attempt to escape antitrust scrutiny and limit education-related benefits. Justice Neil Gorsuch’s majority opinion is a great read with potentially far-reaching implications despite the narrow issue before the Court.

Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s concurring opinion, however, burns the NCAA’s house of cards to the crowd in a blistering rebuke of “amateurism” in a multi-billion dollar college sports industry. Here is the conclusion to his opinion in all its glory:

To be sure, the NCAA and its member colleges maintain important traditions that have become part of the fabric of America—game days in Tuscaloosa and South Bend; the packed gyms in Storrs and Durham; the women’s and men’s lacrosse championships on Memorial Day weekend; track and field meets in Eugene; the spring softball and baseball World Series in Oklahoma City and Omaha; the list goes on. But those traditions alone cannot justify the NCAA’s decision to build a massive money-raising enterprise on the backs of student athletes who are not fairly compensated. Nowhere else in America can businesses get away with agreeing not to pay their workers a fair market rate on the theory that their product is defined by not paying their workers a fair market rate. And under ordinary principles of antitrust law, it is not evident why college sports should be any different. The NCAA is not above the law.


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Maine Sports Betting 2.0 Roundup

As Maine attempts again to legalize sports betting following Gov. Janet Mills’ 2020 veto, Steve has been making the media rounds. Below is a round-up of recent coverage of Maine’s second crack at joining the legal sports betting party.

Maine Restarts Sports Betting Talks With Tethering Debate, Action Network, April 30, 2021

Legislative Committee Shows Support For Allowing Sports Betting In Maine, Maine Public, April 30, 2021

Game on: Maine legislators reintroduce bills that would legalize sports gambling, News Center Maine, May 1, 2021

Maine Sports Betting: To Tether Or Not To Tether Mobile Licenses, Legal Sports Report, May 3, 2021

Maine Lawmakers Aiming To Please Governor Or Create Veto-Proof Sports Betting Bill, Sports Handle, May 3, 2021

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After 2020 Veto Maine Tries To Legalize Sports Betting Again

Last time around in Maine, the powers that be managed to kill a bill to legalize sports wagering that the legislature sent to Gov. Janet Mills. This time around, while time and a pandemic have changed the landscape, pretty much the same bill to open a competitive marketplace is back on the table.

But while legal sports betting expands nationwide and so do state budget woes, it’s unclear if the same fate awaits the measure. Sports betting will once again be sponsored by Sen. Louis Luchini, who filed ahead of a special session that will convene on April 28.

In June 2019, the only two casino operators in Maine, Penn National Gaming (PNG) and Churchill Downs Inc., determined that having no legal sports betting would be preferable to an open market where casinos did not act as the license gatekeepers. In other words, the companies wanted full control of which sportsbooks got licenses to go online in the state.

Luchini’s LD 553 in 2019 would have allowed casinos, commercial racetracks, certain off-track betting facilities, slot machine facilities, and federally recognized Indian tribes, as well as “qualified gaming entities,” to apply for a license. It sanctioned pretty much all comers fit to run a sportsbook in another state or in general.

“Sen. Luchini’s bill is nearly identical to the one that garnered bipartisan support from two-thirds of the Maine Senate and the majority of the Maine House last session before Gov. Mills vetoed it,” the chairman of the Maine Gambling Control Board, Steve Silver, an attorney in Portland, Maine, told Sports Handle Wednesday. “The bill is a straightforward, free-market approach with a sensible licensing and taxation structure.

“The need for new, online gaming revenue is even more critical during the pandemic. I get the sense that Mainers are frustrated reading daily headlines about state budget woes when next door in New Hampshire they are raking in about $1 million per month in new tax revenue from sports betting.”

To read Brett Smiley’s full story on Sports Handle and hear more of Steve’s thoughts, click here.

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Did Colorado Open The Floodgates for Sportsbook Partnerships in College Sports?

Despite years of claiming in federal courts that it would suffer irreparable harm from legalized sports betting and after recently telling Congress amateurism would literally die if sports betting expanded, the NCAA shockingly allowed the University of Colorado to partner with PointsBet Sportsbook. The five-year corporate partnership is the first such agreement between a Power 5 school and a sportsbook.

Brett Smiley of Sports Handle interviewed Steve. You can check out his thoughts here.

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NFL Players Must Act Now Against Hate of All Kinds

I never fully understood what anti-Semitism was until a few of my middle school football teammates cornered me in the locker room after practice and told me they were going to finish what Hitler started.

In that moment I knew what pure hate was, what the fear that caused my grandparents to flee Poland as Hitler rose to power must have felt like, and the weight of the struggle for equality that has plagued Jews for thousands of years. Punches and anti-Jewish slurs rained down until another teammate – the only one to do so – stepped in and helped me fend off the 3-on-1 attack.

As I learned as I grew older, anti-Semitism comes with the territory of being the only Jewish kid on a sports team. Anti-Semitism is a shameful fact of American life, as are racism, homophobia, and xenophobia, along with myriad other forms of bigotry and oppression.

Unexpectedly, that attack actually left me with more hope than scars, because of the actions of that teammate. He was the only one amongst many bystanders to step up to defend me both in the heat of the moment and while school officials doled out discipline. He was, in the truest sense of the word, an ally.

To have an ally was more valuable than any hollow, half-hearted apology from the attackers. Ignorance is not cured overnight, but anyone can become an ally in a heartbeat.

This is why it is so disheartening to see the lack of allies in the NFL right now in the wake of Philadelphia Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson’s praise of a virulent anti-Semitic quote attributed to Hitler to his more than 1.4 million Instagram followers – not once, but twice. Jackson still has his $9.3 million per year job; Roger Goodell has done nothing; Jackson’s teammates have been silent; and most of the league’s coaches and players have not even addressed the issue, preferring instead to let Jewish players like Patriots receiver Julian Edelman combat anti-Semitism without much-needed allies (other than Steelers lineman Zach “the mensch” Banner). Just as puzzling, why have all the prominent sports media members who claim to stand for tolerance and oppose bigotry suddenly vanished?

Why is it so hard to condemn hate for what it is? It seems highly doubtful that anti-Semitism is prevalent among professional athletes. So, why, then, have only a few in the football community—to my count, a handful of players— spoken out?

There is a Hebrew phrase that can guide the sports world right now: tikkun olam. It means, “repair of the world” and underpins Jewish teachings to strive to bring the world together in peace, prosperity, health, and equal justice for all. Judaism teaches to fight for social justice and combat hatred in all its forms, a responsibility that is particularly urgent in light of the brutal murder of George Floyd, the massacre of Jews in a Pittsburgh synagogue, and the harm hate has inflicted on countless other minorities in America. Although they did not break it, the other 1,695 NFL players need to repair the recent unity that Jackson shattered and speak up, just as they have in the past when others expressed hateful views. Look at how NASCAR rallied around Bubba Wallace. Why isn’t the football community standing up for its Jewish members?

Players and coaches with massive platforms must be active allies for all oppressed, minority, and marginalized people. Certainly, in the blackballing of Colin Kaepernick and the slap on the wrist for Riley Cooper, league leadership has proven itself incapable of true allyship. Change will not come from the top. It must come from within the locker rooms. Our favorite gridiron stars need to step up and put Jackson and others who share his same hateful views in their places.

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What Has California Done, and Why Does It Matter?

What Has California Done, and Why Does It Matter?

By Richard G. Johnson. Mr. Johnson was plaintiff’s counsel in Oliver v. NCAA, which was the first college athlete lawsuit against the NCAA to ever get to trial, the first to win, and the first to get paid. The Oliver case provided the impetus for the O’Bannon case and its ongoing progeny. Mr. Johnson was a primary background source for Taylor Branch’s seminal article, The Shame of College Sports. Joe Nocera, in his book, Indentured, called Mr. Johnson’s Submarining Due Process:  How the NCAA Uses its Restitution Rule to Deprive College Athletes of their Right of Access to the Courts … Until Oliver v. NCAA the meanest law review article ever written. As a college athlete rights advocate and commentator, as well as a leading legal authority on the NCAA, Mr. Johnson is a member of the executive board of the College Sports Research Institute. Mr. Johnson holds his J.D., M.B.A., and B.A. from Case Western Reserve University, and he practices law in Cleveland, Ohio. Follow him on Twitter @PiranhaRGJ.

Over the last three weeks, a lot of back-slapping and hoopla has been extended over California supposed sticking it to the NCAA by legislating the “Fair Pay to Play Act,” when there is no such act at all.  California Senate Bill 206, signed into law on September 30th, does not bear that title, and it does not mandate paying the players, let alone fairly paying them.  Yet almost every media outlet repeated this misinformation, as did the Governor on national television, and now a few states are supposedly going to introduce their own similar legislation.  Fuel for the train that is college athlete rights?  Not if you actually expect the train to move.  It’s like bragging about putting diesel in your high octane sports car.

Right up front, here’s a hint as to how to evaluate any like proposals to benefit college athletes:  Any legislator who uses the NCAA propaganda term “student-athlete,” but who claims to be in favor of college athlete rights, simply has no idea what they are talking about.  Ditto for any legislator who calls an athletic grant-in-aid a scholarship, when there is no such thing as an athletic scholarship.  Word choices say a lot about what these people know or don’t know, and these are two billboards that should catch your attention.

Continue reading

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Maine: The Way Sports Betting Should Be

Steve actually took this photo of Portland Headlight

Fully mobile wagering, no integrity fees, no data mandates, and low licensing fees. Is this heaven? No it’s Maine.

After a rapid and at times secretive legislative process, Maine legalized sports betting last week. Not only did the Pine Tree state beat the Massholes to the punch, but Maine also passed a bill that should serve as the post-PASPA model for other states looking to legalize sports betting.

Steve shared his initial reaction to the bill with Brett Smiley at Sports Handle here.

Steve also wrote an op-ed explaining why Maine’s soon-to-be law is both consumer and operator friendly for our friends at Legal Sports Report here.

Read both. Get smarter. And come visit Vacationland!

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ROUND-UP: New Hampshire’s Victory Over the DOJ’s Reinterpretation of the Wire Act

Last summer the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the federal prohibition of sports betting. This summer, the U.S. District Court for the District of New Hampshire smacked down the Department of Justice’s attempt to expand the Wire Act to all forms of online gaming — lotteries, poker, casinos — not just sports betting.

Although appeals may follow, for now gaming advocates can breathe a sigh of relief from expanded prosecution under the Wire Act after U.S. District Court Judge Paul Barbadoro clearly ruled that the Wire Act “is limited to sports gambling” in response to the New Hampshire State Lottery’s lawsuit against the DOJ. (Original Complaint here).

Following the decision, Steve was busy giving quotes to the media about the decision and its ramifications. You can read up on Steve’s thoughts and what other titans of gaming law had to say at the links below:

June 5, 2019 – – “Gaming Lawyers Praise New Hampshire Court Ruling on Wire Act But Identify Decision’s Limitations”

June 4, 2019 – Legal Sports Report – “Why The New Wire Act Decision Might Not Be A Win For Sports Betting”

If you ever need to reach Steve for an interview, please contact

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New Hampshire Takes On DOJ In Monumental Wire Act Clash

It was only a matter of time before litigation ensued.

There was zero chance that the DOJ could undo decades of law in its sweetheart deal to Sheldon Adelson and not expect to have to defend itself in court. So here we are.

On February 15, the New Hampshire Lottery Commission sued the DOJ seeking declaratory and injunctive relief to effectively stop the DOJ from enforcing its new opinion about the Wire Act against lotteries. You can read the full Complaint here.

Immediately, many commentators started declaring victory to New Hampshire because of “binding precedent” in the First Circuit limiting the Wire Act to sports. This is simply not true. As Steve explained to Legal Sports Report, there is some dicta in the First Circuit pertaining to the Wire Act, but this matter is anything but a slam dunk. You can read Steve’s comments on this issue in Prof. John Holden’s excellent article here.

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