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Can Maine Sports Betting Legislation Rebound From Bizarre Veto?

Sports betting is back on the agenda in Maine.

Sen. Louis Luchini filed SB 1352 with the ME Senate this week.

He will hope for a better fate for his bill than it received last year.

If at first you don’t succeed …

Luchini was behind the last sports betting bill that made it all the way to the governor’s desk in February 2020 before being vetoed. Legislators passed Maine sports betting legislation in late 2019 but Gov. Janet Mills utilized a parliamentary quirk to delay acting on the bill for months.

Mills said at the time:

“I remain unconvinced that the majority of Maine people are ready to legalize, support, endorse and promote betting.”

Mills cited bizarre reasoning about concerns like betting being extended to local elections and school spelling bees. When it appeared the legislature might override her veto, Mills  successfully lobbied legislators to sustain her rejection.

That bill also was opposed by the owners of the two casinos in Maine: Penn National and Churchill Downs.

Penn said after the veto it supported ME sports betting only for those who had “invested hundreds of millions of dollars in the state.” In other words, the casinos wanted tethering like in New Jersey sports betting.

What’s in new ME sports betting bill?

The 2021 version of the bill would do little to ease those concerns.

Mobile sports betting licenses in Maine would potentially be available for any “qualified gaming entity.” That includes sports betting operators licensed “in any jurisdiction” in the US.

In other words, there is no need for sportsbooks to partner with a local casino.

The bill also calls for a $20,000 license fee and 10% tax on GGR.

Penn and Churchill Downs did not respond to a request asking whether they would support this bill.

Barstool Sportsbook bigger this time around

However Penn National might possibly have had a change of heart. For one, Barstool Sportsbook is now live in three states with solid market shares.

CEO Jay Snowden named Maine as a potential new market in a CNBC hit earlier this year.

Of course, he didn’t specify whether that was as part of an open market or a tethered one.

Maine has incentive to get sports betting done

Maine risks losing tax dollars to neighboring jurisdictions if it does not get sports betting done this year.

Rhode Island and New Hampshire currently have sports betting in operation up in New England.

New Hampshire, Maine’s direct neighbor to the South, is making around $1 million a month in taxes from its DraftKings-run operation.

Connecticut also looks likely to get something done this year. Meanwhile, north of the border, Canada looks set to legalize sports betting in 2021.

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