After a long wait, Maine Governor Janet Mills elected to veto a bill that would have legalized sports betting in the state. Despite overwhelming bi-partisan support, Mills started off the 2020 legislative session by vetoing LD553, “An Act to Ensure Proper Oversight of Sports Betting in the State.” Mills is just the second governor to veto a sports betting bill since the PASPA ruling in May of 2018. The other was former Michigan Governor Rick Snyder in late 2018. Michigan has since approved legal sports betting.
Mills’ Veto Letter
Governor Mills issued a letter on Friday January 10th to members of the legislature.
Some of the biggest takeaways from Mills’ letter include:
“Respectfully, I remain unconvinced at this time that the majority of Maine people are ready
to legalize, support, endorse and promote betting on competitive athletic events.”
“Before Maine joins the frenzy of states hungry to attract this market, I believe we need to
examine the issue more clearly.”
“We are also told that the state can access new revenues by legalizing sports betting. But for the
more than dozen states that have enacted legislation regarding this form of gambling, revenues
have fallen far short of projections for a variety of reasons.”
“At the same time, if the Legislature is serious about cracking down on illegal activities, it should
consider penalties that are more serious and more consistent with the Maine Criminal Code,
including recognizing the financial gain of the offender, rather than the misdemeanor penalties
described in section 1216 of the bill.”
All That Waiting For Nothing
Maine residents have been waiting for months for a response from Governor Mills on the sports betting bill that made it to her desk. At first, many believed Mills would sign the bill into law due to the overwhelming bi-partisan support. However, Mills decided not to act on the bill at the end of the 2019 legislative session. Under state law, the governor is allowed to take extra time to act on a bill passed within the final seven days of the legislative session. Now, Mills had until the third day of the 2020 legislative session to make her decision.
It was clear that Mills’ intent was to take the time to further study the effects of legal sports betting and to decide whether or not it was a good idea for Maine residents. Ultimately, Mills decided it was not. While she could have let the bill become law without her signature, she decided to veto the bill instead. While this is a huge blow to Maine’s chances of legalizing sports betting this year, hope is not completely gone.
Future of Legal Sports Betting in Maine
Despite Governor Mills vetoing LD553, the bill is completely dead just yet. The House and Senate could still override the governor’s veto. Even with the support the bill got from both the House and Senate on its way to the governor’s desk, it is a long-shot they override the veto. A two-thirds vote is needed to overturn the veto.
Assuming the veto is not overturned, Maine’s next steps are unclear at the moment. Surely Mills’ and her team will continue to study sports betting in other states and continue to gather more information on the issue. The success/failure of sports betting in neighboring states like New Hampshire could be a big influence on any future decisions Governor Mills makes on the issue. Lawmakers will almost certainly put together another sports betting bill this session in efforts to bring legal sports betting to Maine as quickly as possible.
While Maine is missing out now, it should only be a matter of time before Mills (or any other future governor) decides that legal sports betting is indeed a good fit for Maine. One thing is for sure, until then, New Hampshire will continue to reap the rewards of Maine bettors coming over state lines to place legal bets in their state.