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.”