Maine Legislature Approves Sports Betting Bill At Last Minute
On late-Wednesday night, a sports betting bill passed both the Maine House and Senate with an overwhelming majority of approval. This bill was approved right before the clock ran out on this year’s session and that was largely due to the painfully slow process of debates, changes and delays throughout the spring. By Friday, the bill had begun the process of being sent over to the Governor for final approval. It’s expected to be signed and become law this summer.
About Bill L.D. 553
One of the big points of contention between state leaders was the tax rate. Ultimately, the legislation would set two different tax rates: licensed physical locations would pay 10 percent tax on revenue, while online-only operators would pay 16 percent on their revenue.
Altogether, the bill would allow for 11 entities to apply for on-premise sports gambling licenses: the state’s four Native American tribes, Scarborough Downs racetrack, Hollywood Casino in Bangor and Oxford Casino, and the four off-track betting parlors with locations in Lewiston, Brunswick, Sanford, and Waterville. At least two of those entities will likely seek mobile-only licenses.
There appears to be no cap on the number of mobile-only sports betting licenses that will be granted. There hasn’t been much opposition to the bill overall, but the online platform operators and casinos have been lobbying for different versions.
The bill’s sponsor, Senator Louis Luchini, said on this week that they should go with a free market approach when it comes to tethering mobile operators to physical location licensees. Some key points of the bill include:
- Bettors must be 21 years of age or older.
- The fee for all initial or renewed mobile sports betting licenses is $20,000.
- Revenues would go to Maine’s General Fund, aside from the one percent to the GCU and one percent to the Gambling Addiction and Prevention Treatment Fund.
- The legislature is anticipating a $1.3 million revenue for the General Fund in 2019-20 and $2.6 million in the 2020-21 fiscal year.
Luchini’s biggest argument with some of his constituents was their desire to see a business having to tether their license to another business physically located in the state or construct a building:
“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.”
History of the Bill
On Tuesday night, lawmakers in Maine gave their initial approval to a bill that would legalize sports gambling. Late on Wednesday morning, the bill passed the House and headed back to the Senate for concurrence.
The House voted unanimously and the Senate voted 19-15 to add Maine to the list of states that have legalized the activity since May of last year. The bill, L.D. 553, would permit people 21 and older to place wagers on most collegiate and all professional sports, either at brick-and-mortar locations or online using mobile apps.
Regulation of Sports Betting
Sports betting licensees in Maine would be regulated and enforced by the Maine Department of Public Safety’s Gambling Control Unit. The Gambling Control Unit would be entitled to receive two percent of the resulting tax revenue from sports betting; the money would be shared with problem gambling programs.
If Governor Mills signs it, it would make Maine the sixth state in 2019 to pass new sports betting legislation.
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