Maine Sports Betting Future Still Unclear
For the last few years, Maine has gotten ridiculously close to legalizing sports betting within its borders but has failed to push past the finish line. The 2021 legislative session adjourned last Spring and did so with the sports betting legislation back in committee. This essentially took away any possibility that it would get legalized in 2021. But, to no surprise, Maine is pushing for it again in 2022.
However, by the time that legalization happens in Maine, it is very likely that just about all other Northeastern states also legalize. The longer Maine waits to legalize, the more they will be missing out on possible revenue as residents can easily travel south or even potentially north to Canada to wager on sports.
As of early March 2022, a new bill surfaced to re-introduce the idea of sports betting to the state lawmakers. The bill, LD 585, would give the states’ four tribes exclusive rights to the online sports betting market in Maine, excluding both state casinos and commercial operators.
What Stopped The Bill in 2021
The biggest issue is tethering. Tethering means that online sportsbooks must partner with in-person retail casinos and sportsbooks in order to operate in the state. While this was explicitly the issue that stopped the bill from passing in the Maine legislature this year, it is also possibly the implicit reason Governor Janet Mills vetoed a sports betting bill in 2020.
This is a hotly debated issue as the large casinos in Maine obviously want control over sports betting. The casinos want to make sure that all sports wagering goes through licensing that they own. Unfortunately, these casinos are large contributors to political campaigns, and many politicians agree with their sentiment. This has been the major hold-up as groups of legislators are split on whether to push tethering or not.
It is worth noting that the bill that got through the State House in Maine twice, Bill LD1352, did not require tethering. However, the bill continuously stalled and eventually died as it was sent to the committee once again.
Tethering would be less of an issue if the LD 585 passed, as casinos wouldn’t be involved at all, and the tribes would regulate the market in Maine.
Will Sports Betting Launch in 2022 For Maine?
At this point, providing forward guidance on Maine will be tricky. However, it is clear that the pressure will be on Maine to legalize sports betting as every single state in the surrounding area begins to do so. New Hampshire, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania have all launched online sports betting. Meanwhile, Canada and Massachusetts all look prime to launch online sports betting in the immediate future. This leaves residents with plenty of choices if they wish to bet on sports.
This means that Maine is simply losing possible revenue while it has to deal with the consequences of its residents participating in sports wagering. It is clear that lawmakers in Maine want sports betting. The question that has seemingly stumped the government is how to implement it. Tethering will be part of the question heading as we continue into 2022, as well as tribal-state relations; the government’s ability to figure out the answer will be the deciding factor on if we will finally see sports betting in the state.