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Maine Sports Betting Bill Off to Governor After Escaping Appropriations Table

May 1, 2022 | Government Subscriber Only

AUGUSTA (April 25, 2022) — The legislation known as LD 585 was freed from the state Senate’s “Special Appropriations Table” on Monday and will now go to Gov. Janet Mills, who vetoed a similar effort in 2020 but is viewed as much more likely to approve the latest sports-betting bill. A bill that would legalize sports betting in Maine is off to the governor to be signed into law — barring any last-minute changes of heart.

The legislation known as LD 585 was freed from the state Senate’s “Special Appropriations Table” on Monday and will now go to Gov. Janet Mills, who vetoed a similar effort in 2020 but is viewed as much more likely to approve the latest sports-betting bill.

Even getting off the appropriations table is a feat in and of itself for LD 585. Lawmakers advanced a betting bill in 2021 before it got stuck on the special table — where bills affecting government revenue can be placed — quashing the attempt to legalize sports wagering in the Pine Tree State.

But LD 585 was approved by Maine’s House of Representatives and Senate last week and has now avoided the legislative trapdoor. The bill allows for both legal retail and online sports betting in the New England state, which currently has neither.

Friends in high places

In-person betting would be allowed at casinos and off-track betting facilities under the proposed legislation. Online sports wagering would be controlled by the state’s four federally recognized Native American tribes, who could partner with a mobile sportsbook operator such as DraftKings or FanDuel.

However, LD 585 deals with more than just sports betting, as it contains provisions dealing with tribal-state relations and taxes. The legislation is tied to a broader debate over tribal sovereignty in Maine, triggered by a 1980 law that caused the state’s Native American tribes to miss out on legal gambling opportunities, among other things.

Mills also seems poised to sign LD 585. Maine Public reported Monday on a letter from the governor sent to legislative and tribal leaders that asked for the brakes to be pumped on a further-reaching tribal-sovereignty bill, but for LD 585 to advance.

“To help us continue to move forward, I ask that LD 1626 remain with the Legislature and that LD 585 be enacted into law while we continue our work together on areas of mutual concern,” Mills reportedly wrote.

At any rate, Maine is now close to joining the ranks of states with legal sports betting. Several of those states are in the New England region, including Connecticut. An effort to legalize sports betting in Massachusetts also appears to be building momentum again as well.

LD 585 requires bettors to be 21 or older and physically located in Maine to wager. Betting markets could be offered on professional, college, and amateur sports, albeit not on games involving Maine’s colleges and universities. Sports-betting revenue would be subject to a 10% tax rate after certain adjustments, including the deduction of excise tax payments to the federal government.

Ten brick-and-mortar sportsbook licenses could be awarded in the state, which would be valid for four years and come with a $4,000 fee. The four tribes are each eligible for a single mobile sports wagering license with four-year terms and a $200,000 fee.

“With respect to mobile sports wagering, the Legislature finds that, if conducted by federally recognized Indian tribes in the State, mobile sports wagering will serve as an effective economic development tool for tribal governments and tribal members and will provide economic stimulus to rural areas of the State,” a summary of LD 585 notes, adding that “authorizing the federally recognized Indian tribes in the State to conduct mobile sports wagering is fair and equitable because those Indian tribes previously have been excluded from conducting most forms of gaming in the State.”

If Mills signs LD 585 into law, it could still take some time for sports betting to get off the ground in Maine.

Lawyers from White and Williams LLP wrote in an April 19 article that a launch couldn’t happen until the Department of Public Safety publishes regulations and starts issuing licenses.

“[At] this juncture, it is too soon to tell how long those processes may take,” the lawyers noted.

SOURCE: Covers.

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