Sports Betting Bill Advances Through Maine House

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Sports betting could soon be legalized in Maine with tribal interests running online sportsbooks and two casinos having control of retail books. 

The House passed the sports betting legislation Friday, with the support of Governor Janet Mills.  

The measure could be taken up in the Senate as early as this week. 

“I’m filled with the hope that I am taking one more step to bring prosperity to the people of Maine and another step alongside our neighbors … in this important journey forward,” said House Majority Leader Michelle Dunphy, according to the Bangor Daily News

Details Of Maine Sports Betting Legislation

LD 585 is more than just a sports betting bill.  

Proponents argue it would help right a wrong from a 1980 settlement between the state and native tribes. That agreement took away some sovereign rights enjoyed by other tribes across the country.

“It will perhaps have an immediate impact on their prosperity,” Dunphy, whose district includes the Penobscot Nation, told the Portland Press-Herald. 

“It will also, however, be another important step in a long journey over 500 years in the making – the journey of our communities transforming themselves from conquerors and occupiers among a proud people to becoming neighbors,” Dunphy added.

Under the terms of the bill, the tribes would have exclusivity over online sports wagering. 

The measure passed the House 81-53.

Different Sports Betting Bill Still On The Table

Maine lawmakers passed a different sports betting bill last year, LD 1352. That legislation, which the tribes oppose, would allow the casinos a piece of the mobile action. 

Experts have said up to 85% of the sports betting in Maine would be done on mobile apps, in line with other states that have legal mobile wagering.

The bill is awaiting consideration in the Appropriations Committee, according to News Center Maine

Under the terms of LD 1352, 16% of sports betting revenue would go to the state. 

“One of the first things I want to express is that we want to have this a win-win. We’re not looking to create divisions. I think the governor’s bill, unfortunately, creates divisions,” state Sen. Joe Baldacci told the station.

Baldacci is a leading advocate of LD 1352.

Tribal interests, however, are opposed to LD 1352.  While not perfect, they argue LD 585 is a better option because it helps them become more self-sufficient. 

“It really would be away for us to have economic development and be able to self determine how we’re going to spend those funds,” said Chief Clarissa Sabattis of the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians. 

Sports Betting Competition From Nearby States

New Hampshire has sports betting, and residents of Maine often cross state lines to place a bet. 

“I went to The Brook (a retail sports-betting site in Seabrook, New Hampshire) for the experience,” John Paglio of Portland told the Portland Press-Herald earlier this year. 

“However, I used the DraftKings Sportsbook app to place my bets… It is so much easier and I’d rather have full control of my money. Whereas if I were to go to the window and place a bet, I’d have to drive back down to New Hampshire to collect my money.”

Massachusetts is also considering sports betting. Various proposals have been under consideration before, but as recently as last month it appeared a compromise version may get passed this year. 

About the Author

Mary M. Shaffrey

Mary Shaffrey is an award-winning journalist who co-authored "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Government." She has spent more than 20 years covering government, both at the state and federal level. As a fan of the Baltimore Orioles and the Providence College Friars she feels cursed. Luckily she is a hockey mom too so her spirits aren't totally shot.

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