Maine House Unanimously Passes Sports Betting Legislation

Maine is the second New England state in the past few weeks to pass legislation that legalizes sports betting for residents and visitors who are of at least 21 years of age. Maine’s neighbor, New Hampshire, moved to legalize sports betting a week ago, and though Maine waited until the final day of their legislative session, the legislation was passed unanimously by the House.

LD 553 is being lauded as one of the more progressive sports betting bills we have seen since the Supreme Court’s 2018 decision to overturn the Federal ban on sports betting. Bets will likely not be able to be placed until closer to the end of the year or possibly even 2020, but things seem to be moving in the right direction and Maine bettors are eager to step into the realm of legal sports betting.

How It Happened

The way we saw LD 553 eventually passed in Maine was none too different than similar pieces of legislation we have seen from other states that have moved to legalize sports betting. In the Senate, a tightly-contested vote saw the bill move through by a margin of 19-15. Things went a little more smoothly in the House of Representatives as there was unanimous support for the bill.

We are now awaiting the signature of Governor Janet Mills to officially turn the bill into law, but there is widespread belief that the Democratic governor will, indeed pass the legislation.

Rules, Regulation, and Other Items Worth Mentioning

As we mentioned before, bets will eventually be able to be placed by folks who can prove that they are at least 21 years of age. Bets can be placed at brick and mortar facilities, but LD 553 also allows for mobile/internet betting as well, though it is still unclear how one who wishes to bet on a mobile device will prove that they are of adequate age.

As far as brick and mortar sites are concerned, there are 11 casinos and OTBs that currently meet the requirements to apply for a sports betting license. Though applications are not being accepted quite yet, they will cost prospective operators $20,000 just to submit. The tax rates levied against physical operators is different than it is for mobile operators and stands at an attractive 10% (relatively low when you view other states’ sports betting tax rates).

The mobile betting aspect of the bill is one that brought about a good bit of debate throughout the legislative process. Though this battle was eventually lost, plenty of lawmakers supported a mandate that would force mobile sports betting operators to be “tethered” to a preexisting physical betting location, such as a casino. This was done in an effort to ensure that mobile operators have a vested interest in the communities within which they operate. Senator Louis Luchini, a Democrat from Ellsworth, was one of the LD 553’s main endorsers and spoke with regard to why he and his colleagues opted for a more open-market mobile betting industry.

In his remarks, he said, “To me it’s a strange way to write a law that would require a new business to come into Maine only if they tether their license to an existing business. We don’t require Amazon to tether to existing grocery stores and we don’t require Airbnb to tether to hotels.” In the end, Luchini’s sentiments were supported by other lawmakers and it looks as though Maine may see a fairly large influx of mobile sports betting operators.

As for who will regulate the newly-created industry, that much is being left up to the Maine Department of Public Safety’s Gambling Control Unit. This group already regulates the brick and mortar casino industry as well as Daily Fantasy Sports operators, so it seemed like a much more sensible decision than creating an entirely new agency.

When Will Betting Begin?

With regard to when bets can be placed, this much is still uncertain. Hopes are, as they are elsewhere, that betting will be made available in time for the upcoming NFL season, but it is seeming like late December or early January is more likely. Most of the rules and regulations need to be created, agreed upon, and adopted, so there is still much to be done.

What we do know is that college and professional sports will be available for wagering, however betting on collegiate games/competitions involving schools from Maine will be prohibited. This is a recurring theme we are beginning to see be inherent in most every piece of sports betting legislation.

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