Maine Starts Process to Legalize Sports Betting, No Major Opposition
Maine recently held a public hearing on five different pieces of legislation to legalize sports betting. Of these bills, some would restrict sports betting to brick-and-mortar locations, while others would allow for sports gambling at both physical locations as well as online. There’s even a legal bill that would restrict the operation of sportsbooks to the state’s federally recognized tribes’ gambling facilities. One thing is for certain, there isn’t any major opposition to stand in the way of Maine legalizing sports betting sooner than later.
At the Hearing
Representatives of the two casinos in Maine, in addition to those from the harness ring industry and off-track betting parlors, attended the hearing to speak in favor of legalizing sports gambling. There was no organized opposition to any of the five bills.
According to The Press Harold, the publicity director for Scarborough Downs, Michael Sweeney, said sports gambling could breathe some more life into the harness racing track:
“This is an opportunity for industries that are home-grown, locally based, small mom-and-pop businesses to grow and thrive.”
Maine’s Revenue Projections
Milton Champion is the executive director of the Gambling Control Unit which oversees the casino operations under the Maine Department of Public Safety. He warned legislators not to count their chickens before they’ve hatched. Only two states among the seven with legalized sports betting have met or exceeded previous projections from sports gambling:
“There is only so much discretionary funds available. This, in my view, indicates that New England has or is very close to reaching its saturation point. It is essential, however, that we have the ability to offer what the competition offers.”
Some stakeholders caution against a tax rate that is too high: In Pennsylvania, the tax rate is 36%, and this is a big deterrent to interested parties. It’s just not realistic to expect sportsbook operators to turn over a third of their revenue for tax purposes.
What About the Tribes?
Several of the proposed legislative bills being considered would either allow tribes to run sportsbooks or would set a certain amount of revenues aside to give to the tribes. Another one would grant exclusive rights to the tribes to run sportsbook facilities.
The tribes in Maine have tried several times and failed to win the permission to place full casinos or slot machines on tribal lands. The failure to do so has worsened the tensions between the state and the tribes over issues of tribal sovereignty.
The Process for Legalization
If proceeding, legislators will have to decide on a tax rate and how to direct that revenue. As of now, the revenue from the two casinos is divided among college scholarships, the host municipalities’ harness racing purses, agricultural fairs, tribal governments, and a few other areas.
A rep from DraftKings also attended the hearing. He talked about how his company’s app helps to reduce offshore and black market sports gaming, and also helps to prevent underage gambling.
Currently, only Rhode Island offers sports betting in the New England region. If Maine can legalize sports betting sooner than later, they will be able to get a leg up on the competition from neighboring states. Furthermore, it would be ideal for all parties to get on the same page as that would allow legislation to pass quickly and in time for some of the biggest sports wagering moments of the year.
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