Maine could be headed in the right direction with sports gambling. Four bills had been introduced in the current legislative session, each with their own, slightly different versions of how the market should be approached. There is now only one survivor of those four, which should help lawmakers be able to focus on pushing the legislation forward, even if one big hurdle remains. Approval of a sports gambling bill by all lawmakers in the state doesn’t mean that the legislation will survive once it reaches Governor Janet Mills’ desk.
Maine Lawmakers Push Sports Gambling Legislation
Last Friday, Maine’s Legislature Committee on Veterans and Legal Affairs considered all four of the bills that had been submitted in the current session, ultimately deciding to kill three of them, according to News Center Maine. The survivor, a bill sponsored by Senator Louis Luchini, didn’t approve the fourth but didn’t reject it, either. This means that it has been able to withstand scrutiny and will be considered by lawmakers, possibly as early as this week.
One of the biggest questions that lawmakers are grappling with is how to structure Maine’s sports gambling market. Some people would prefer to see sportsbooks that are operated only by existing casinos or race tracks, while others want to have an open market, such as that seen in Maryland, that would allow an open application process for licensing. The latter would facilitate the arrival of existing sportsbooks from other states and would make it easier to introduce online sports gambling. Because online gambling isn’t legal in Maine (although there is a large offshore casino market), any in-state entity wanting to introduce online gambling would have to cross more hurdles and create new partnerships. Existing online sportsbooks operating in other states already have the infrastructure in place.
The only exception could be Penn National Gaming, which operates the Hollywood Casino Hotel & Raceway in Bangor. Since it already has a physical presence in the state and has a strong position in sports gambling and iGaming, it is well suited to introduce an online sportsbook in Maine. When the Legislature Committee on Veterans and Legal Affairs invited public input on the subject of sports gambling last month, Penn National was present, supporting the idea of only allowing existing licensees to be able to launch sportsbooks.
One Big Hurdle to Cross
If the way the surviving sports gambling bill is written survives, Penn National might be disappointed. It would allow outside entities to come in and apply for licenses in an “untethered” and open market. However, lawmakers are hoping that this is the year that history doesn’t repeat itself.
An untethered sports gambling bill was submitted in the last session and was also sponsored by Luchini. It didn’t have too much trouble making it through the legislative maze to find success but ran into a brick wall on the other side. After lawmakers approved the bill, it advanced to Governor Mills for her signature. She pulled out her rubber stamp and slapped a big red “rejected” on the bill, forcing it back to lawmakers. Mills argued that she didn’t feel there were enough consumer protections included in the language and, hopefully, lawmakers have learned their lesson this time around.