Maine Lawmakers Set to Debate Legal Sports Betting
Residents and visitors to the state could soon place legal bets on college and professional sports games due to several bills that are headed for debate this 2019 session of the Maine Legislature.
The bills vary when it comes to how to regulate sports bets. Some of the bills would allow casinos in Oxford and Bangor to have sportsbooks; other bills would want to give the state’s tribes exclusive permission to offer sports betting. Still, other legislation ideas would develop the groundwork for online sports betting.
Sports Betting in Maine
If even one of the bills becomes law, Maine would be the second New England state, and the ninth state in the country, where a person could place a legal wager on a sports game.
Right now, it’s illegal to place wagers on sporting events in Maine, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. Just a week ago, a man from Portland, Stephen Mardigan, who was running what is thought to be one of the biggest illegal gambling operations in Maine, was sentenced to 15 months in federal prison for filing a false tax return, money laundering, and unlawful gambling.
Investigators think that he took in as much as $12 million over 20 to 25 years. He took bets on pro and college basketball and football, pro hockey, baseball, golf tournaments, and stock car racing.
Sports Gambling Bills in Maine
Right now the actual text of the bills are being written, but have been given titles by staff members.
Maine’s Senate President Troy Jackson (D-Allagash) is sponsoring two bills to regulate both mobile and online gaming. His legislation would forbid gambling on Maine’s college teams, high school teams, minor league teams, and other specific sporting events.
Christine Kirby, a spokesperson for Jackson, said in a statement:
“The general idea is to establish a regulatory structure for sports betting in Maine after the U.S. Supreme Court ruling this past spring. It also gives the Gambling Control Board significant authority to regulate sports betting.”
Another sponsor for a separate bill, is Representative Benjamin Collins (D-Portland) who hopes that the resulting bill will allow for sports betting at the tribal casinos, the harness race industry, off-track betting parlors, and casinos.
Rep. Collins is very supportive of the state’s tribes and thinks sports betting will be lucrative, but revenue will probably not be “in the tens of millions.”
He’s still in talks with some of the tribes about going after gambling opportunities. Referring back to the idea that sports betting isn’t going to be hugely lucrative, he said of the tribes’ opinion on sports betting:
“They still feel a little skeptical about that. This is not an opportunity for them to make a ton of money but maybe a little bit.”
Senator Louis Luchini (D-Ellsworth) is yet another sponsor for one of these sports betting bills. His measure has not yet been drafted, and he’s working on finding inspiration in the legislation passed recently by other states:
“The goal would be to ensure there is an adequate regulatory framework for sports wagering, as it’s becoming legalized across the country.”
Gambling in Maine
In Maine, the state shares the profits brought in by the casinos. Right now the state gets about $55 million a year in revenue. Of course, if Maine legalizes sports gambling, the state would collect revenue and fees relating to that activity.
Sports Betting in the United States
In May of last year, the Supreme Court overturned the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992, a federal law that prohibited sports betting outside of Nevada. Now each state is free to decide to legalize sports betting, or not.
So far, it is legal to place a wager on a sporting event in eight states: Nevada, of course, and then Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Delaware, West Virginia, Mississippi, and New Mexico. New Mexico’s sports betting is done not via legislation that came after the Supreme Court decision, but with a gaming compact between the state and the tribe.
Once the federal law was overturned, the Santa Ana Star Casino & Hotel began offering sports betting. New York and Arkansas are both very close to being able to offer sportsbooks as well.
Like Maine, states like Iowa, Colorado, Michigan, Tennessee, Indiana, and Massachusetts are all discussing sports betting legislation in 2019.
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