Maine’s legislative agenda for 2024 holds the promise of expanding gambling horizons beyond sports betting.
With the successful introduction of online sports betting in late 2023, Maine is now preparing to broaden its gambling offerings to include iGaming.
While a faction of lawmakers within the state shows unwavering support for the passing of iGaming legislation, significant obstacles stand in the way. Despite these challenges, the state remains resolute in its commitment to actualize this initiative within the early phase of the year.
Proceedings Delayed as Bomb Threats Disrupt Session in Maine
LD 1777 was introduced in 2023 by Sen. Laura Supica (D-Bangor), a bill aimed at granting Maine’s tribes control over all gambling operations, including online casinos.
Despite being carried over to the new year, discussions on the bill were hindered when a series of bomb threats disrupted proceedings on Jan. 3, necessitating the evacuation of the Capitol building before a vote could occur. Threats had also been made on several capitol buildings in the country.
Following the resolution of the hoax threats, the iGaming debate resumed in Maine. The proposed bill encompasses internet gambling options beyond sports betting, covering a wide range of games involving chance or skill conducted over the internet, where individuals wager money or something of value.
LD 1777 also outlines a flat 10% tax on all online wagering. The revenue generated is to be earmarked for different public services compared to the current allocation of sports betting tax funds.
People in support of online casinos in the state perceive it as a catalyst for economic advancement.
Senator Supica expressed optimism about its potential benefits, especially in underprivileged areas of central and northern Maine, envisioning it as a driver for economic rejuvenation.
“I don’t see this as an irresponsible policy that’s going to cannibalize our services,” Supica said.
“I think it’s something that could be very good for our services, especially in central and northern Maine where we are really economically depressed.”
Hurdles to Climb in Maine
The proposal enjoys support from key legislative figures such as House Speaker Rachel Talbot Ross and Senate President Troy Jackson.
However, opposition to the bill persists, notably from Governor Janet Mills, who had expressed reservations about the expansion of tribal powers in gambling legislation. Governor Mills had previously vetoed a bill proposed by Rep. Ben Collings in 2023 owing to the same concerns about tribal rights.
Collings currently has two casino bills in the House, LD 1944 and LD 1992. Both bills add layers of complexity to Maine’s gambling landscape.
The first bill, LD 1944, advocates for the establishment of casinos on tribal lands. On the other hand, LD 1992 aims to endorse gaming terminals operated by tribes.
Maine’s relationship with its tribes is complex, governed by the 1980 Maine Indian Land Claims Settlement Act, which restrains tribes from being treated as sovereign entities. The proposed bills aim to grant more rights to Maine’s tribes and potentially confer federal recognition.
Exclusivity Challenges iGaming Legislation in Maine
If iGaming is subject to similar exclusivity terms, it might impact revenue from existing brick-and-mortar locations as online gambling gains traction.
During its inaugural month of operation, sports betting in Maine boasted an impressive handle of $37.6 million. The current exclusivity arrangements suggest that if these limitations were removed, the legalization of iGaming could lead to significant revenue for the state.
Maine Gambling Control Board Chairman, Steve Silver, expressed a firm stance on the issue, emphasizing the necessity for Maine to seriously contemplate the legalization of iGaming.
“Maine absolutely should consider legalizing Internet Gaming,” Silver wrote.
“It is my personal belief that adult Mainers should be free to enjoy legal, regulated gaming in all its forms. But I also believe that any qualified operator should have the ability to obtain an iGaming license including the Wabanaki Nations. Cutting out Oxford and Hollywood Casinos entirely from offering iGaming is ill-advised in my opinion.”