Legal Sports Betting Slowly Moving Forward in Maine
Another week, another step closer to legalizing sports betting in Maine. Unfortunately, it seems that these steps seem to be painstakingly slow for state leaders who need a lengthy amount of time just to agree on debated details. A few weeks ago, a handful of sports betting bills were killed off with only one proposal remaining on shaky ground. Since then, legislators have been hammering out details on the only bill left standing.
At the beginning of this week, progress had been made, but a few key issues were still hotly debated like the tax rate that will be set on gambling revenues. Fortunately for sports betting proponents, all of that hard work paid off as the overseeing committee narrowly voted to legalize sports betting on Friday.
More Details about the Approval
The Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee, who oversees gaming in the state, spent most of the early week talking about policymaking as they discussed issues like who could offer legal sports betting, how old a person must be in order to place a bet, and how much to charge for licensing fees.
The progress with these discussions became evident by Friday as the committee finally voted to legalize sports betting after lengthy debates, proposals and revisions. However, it was not a unanimous vote and there were several members of the committee who were still on the fence.
As of late Friday, the Committee had a 6-3 vote to approve the bill and legalize sports betting. There were four members who had yet to cast their votes as they had issues with some of the bill’s finer points. These four members have until next Tuesday to make their votes.
Once those remaining votes are casted, the bill will make its way to the Senate and House floors where it will be heavily debated. With the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee being split over sports betting, it’s safe to assume that both the House and the Senate will follow suit with numerous leaders being for and against this bill.
One state leader who will continue to push for legal sports betting is Rep. John Andrews, who believes that the bill should be passed this legislative session:
“I feel like it would be irresponsible to punt it to the next session. I think we should do what we have to do while we’re still here, especially since the Supreme Court, what, a year ago?”
Some of the Bill’s Points of Contention
As of now, the current proposal would make it legal to place bets on college, pro, and amateur sports. It would be illegal to bet on high school sports events as well as any that featured Maine-based universities and colleges. With that said, it seems that the differences among state leaders were over the age of a gambler, online operators, and the tax rate.
At first, committee members struggled over what to set the age limit at. There were some members who strongly pushed for the age to be set at 18 years old. This opinion was based on the fact that age being considered the beginning of adulthood. After lengthy discussions, the majority ended up voting to have the gambling age set at 21 years old.
Online sports betting was another hotly debated topic. The committee approves of online sports betting, but the issue that caused division was over whether or not the online operator would have to be tethered to a licensed gaming business with a physical structure in the state. Currently, all of the legalized gaming facilities have to pay taxes and be held accountable for their standings within local communities. The argument for tethering is that online betting operators should also have to pay rightful property taxes and other associated fees for having a physical business in Maine. The opponents to tethering bring up how Amazon doesn’t have a physical entity in the state and isn’t tethered at all.
Tethering appears to be an issue that needs further discussions and clarity moving forward. The last topic of debate was the tax structure for sports betting in Maine. However, unlike tethering, the Committee was able to come to an agreement on a two-tiered tax system.
The physical gaming locations within the state will be taxed at a rate of 10 percent while online and mobile operators will be taxed at a rate of 16 percent. Among the states that have already legalized sports gambling, the tax rates vary between 6.75 percent of the revenues collected by the operator after winnings are paid out, and 51 percent of operator revenues.
98% of the tax revenue is set to go to the state’s General Fund. 1% of the tax revenue is set to go toward programs for problem gambling. Some leaders believe the state could see up to $7 million dollars in tax revenue for the state each year. These estimations are based on the 10% tax rate and various averages from sports betting around the country.
As it stands now, the bill would allow for 11 different locations or entities to apply for sports betting licenses: the state’s four Native American tribes, the two casinos located in Oxford and Bangor, Scarborough Downs racetrack, and the four off-track betting sites in Waterville, Brunswick, Lewiston, and Sanford.
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