The possibility of sports betting in Maine’s future remains uncertain. After all, in 2019, lawmakers approved LD 553. It was a bill that would legalize sports betting. Unfortunately, it was also one that Governor Janet Mills ultimately vetoed. But now, there is newfound optimism that Maine will join the roster of states that offer legalized sports betting.
Currently, the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee currently has four new pieces of legislation on the docket. The main issues that still need to be resolved concern mobile betting, and whether licenses should be tethered to retail properties or not.
Retail properties want the tethering of mobile licenses in an effort to give them the greatest chance of being prosperous in the new industry. President of the Senate Roy Jackson, and Senator Joseph Baldacci have sponsored bills LD 1405 and LD 1404. These would tether the licenses to the current retail properties.
10% is the current tax rate for retail sportsbooks. That number would jump up to 16% for online sportsbooks if it became an option. The state has also set some very favorable licensing fees in an effort to attract some of the top operators. An initial license would cost just $2,000 for retail properties, and just $20,000 for online sportsbooks. These licenses would need renewal every two years, with payments required again at that time.
But on the other hand, bills LD 1527 and LD 1532 have proposed the untethering of licenses. This would permit online-only operators to enter the market. Representative Tim Roche and Senator Louis Luchini are the sponsors of the bills, respectively.
To Tether, Or Not To Tether?
The Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee aims to strike a compromise, and combine the best options from all of these bills. It’s also easier to deal with one piece of legislation as opposed to four pieces that contradict one another. With regards to the tethering vs. untethering debate, the majority favors a tethered model.
It’s also evident that some of the top sports betting companies believe that tethering is the best option. In recent testimony, Winner’s Circle Jim Day told the committee that in his property receiving a retail license, companies such as “DraftKings, FanDuel, MGM, William Hill, and the like all expect this relationship to be tethered.”
Key Details Remain Unchanged
Ironically, most of the key details from LD 553 remain unaltered. It wasn’t that Mills disapproved of the bill itself, but she didn’t believe Maine was ready for sports betting at the time. She had said, “Before Maine joins the frenzy of states hungry to attract this market, I believe we need to examine the issue more clearly; better understand the evolving experiences of other states; and thoughtfully determine the best approach for Maine.”
She added, “respectfully, 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.” This may be why another point of contention in the new bill is whether in-state college teams should be betted on. Maine does not have many college athletic teams, but this would limit the available markets offered by sportsbooks.
All in all, Maine has nothing to lose if they legalize sports betting. Neighboring New Hampshire is undoubtedly reaping sports betting profits that could’ve been theirs. At the end of the day, Governor Mills has the last word.
Hopefully, this second time is the charm.