Tribes Offered Sports Betting Compromise For More Inclusive Approach

Written By Matthew Kredell on April 14, 2022
Maine sports fans could have the chance to bet on the Boston Red Sox after latest compromise from lawmakers

With a week left in the legislative session, Maine lawmakers offered a proposal Thursday to compromise on sports betting legislation.

Facing a governor-led effort to provide Maine tribes with exclusivity on mobile sports wagering, Rep. Joe Baldacci offered tribes a percentage of mobile sports betting revenue on top of the opportunity for a license.

“We want to have this a win-win,” Baldacci said. “We’re not looking to create divisions. I think that the governor’s bill unfortunately creates divisions. We’re trying to overcome those divisions. We’re trying to have the whole state win.”

Baldacci’s proposal would strip out LD 585’s current gaming language and replaces it with that of 1352, a sports wagering bill passed by both chambers of the legislature last year. However, it adds an annual payment to the tribes of 6% of the adjusted gross wagering receipts for Maine mobile sports betting.

The 6% would go on top of the 16% mobile wagering tax to the state already included in the bill. He estimates it would provide an additional $2 million to $3 million annually to the tribes.

Under LD 585, tribes get exclusivity over mobile sports betting. The casinos would only be able to offer retail sports wagering, and Penn National Gaming would have to put the sportsbook at its seasonal Bass Park raceway rather than the main Hollywood Casino Bangor property.

Baldacci represents a district that includes Hollywood Casino Bangor. Joining him for a news conference announcing the proposal were Sen. Brad Farrin and Rep. Chris Caiazzo.

Remember the Maine LD 1352 sports betting bill?

Last year, both legislative chambers passed sports betting bill LD 1352. Normally, that means the bill heads to the governor.

Ironically, bill sponsor Sen. Louis Luchini successfully lobbied his colleagues to hold his bill in limbo.

Bills with financial aspects make a pit stop in the Appropriations Committee for a final check before heading to the governor’s desk. Through a parliamentary move, the committee never advanced the bill. It remains on the Appropriations table.

Luchini’s original bill allowed for unlimited online mobile sports betting licenses. A floor amendment tethered mobile sports betting licenses to physical gaming properties or tribes.

That led to Luchini’s maneuver. But in January, Luchini resigned his legislative position to take a federal job.

Lawmakers on the Veterans and Legal Affairs (VLA) Committee that handled the issue thought they came up with a really good bill that addressed concerns Gov. Janet Mills expressed when vetoing Luchini’s sports wagering legislation in 2020. It included commercial casinos, off-track betting parlors and tribes.

“She was right in vetoing that bill,” Farrin said. “There were flaws in that bill that the committee took very seriously – child protection, advertising protection, including the tribes in the process, our agricultural fairs, the harness races, our casinos.

Speaking to PlayMaineOnline following the press conference, Farrin said he thinks Luchini would have let the bill go through if he knew what would happen this year.

“I don’t think anyone knew the route it was going to go down with 585 and the governor doing a backroom deal without the VLA being involved,” Farrin said.

How tribal exclusivity became part of Maine sports betting discussions

In Maine, Indian tribes lack the sovereign rights and economic development opportunities permitted to tribes in most states. The Maine Indian Claims Settlement Act of 1980 prohibited tribes from operating casinos.

Last June, Mills vetoed a bill passed by the legislature allowing the tribes to offer casino gambling. During the interim, the governor’s office and tribal leaders tried to work out a compromise.

As a partial solution, the governor proposed giving tribes exclusivity on mobile sports wagering. Rep. Rachel Talbot Ross filed LD 585 at Mills’ behest.

Caiazzo chairs the VLA committee that worked on the issue of sports betting for years. Farrin also sits on that committee as a minority party member. The governor circumvented the committee by running it through the Joint Standing Committee on the Judiciary.

VLA members are mad about not being included in the process. They believe that bill is more thorough in terms of regulation and oversight.

“So imagine our surprise when all of a sudden 585 came out from nowhere, nobody from VLA involved at all, and cut out all the work that everybody had done on 1352,” Farrin said.

Maine has four federally recognized Indian tribes: the Maliseet, Micmac, Penobscot and Passamaquoddy. Collectively, they’re known as the Wabanaki Nations. Under Baldacci’s proposal, the four tribes would split the 6% of mobile sports wagering revenue.

Tribes supported LD 1352 at the end of last year. But with the governor’s offer, they switched their support to LD 585.

“Somehow people are playing this off that 1352 doesn’t take care of the tribes, and we worked hard on that piece to include the tribes in 1352,” Farrin told PlayMaineOnline. “It’s my understanding they were happy with 1352 last year and supported it. But when this happened with the governor, they bailed on 1352.”

Maine tribes oppose Baldacci amendment

Speaking this week to the Bangor Daily News, Penobscot Chief Kirk Francis said Baldacci’s proposal was “not a compromise.” Instead, he called it an attempt to change the bill in a way that would lead to Penn National Gaming dominating the Maine mobile market with its Barstool Sports platform.

Baldacci said Francis lives in his district and he considers him a friend. He wants tribes to get their sovereignty, but doesn’t think 585 is a step toward them getting the sovereignty they deserve.

“I live in the Penobscot Valley area and my commitment is to everyone in Penobscot County,” Baldacci said. “I believe in fairness, and I believe in justice. … I’m going to be a full-throated supporter of the tribal sovereignty bill, which is actual, real change.”

Another bill being considered, LD 1626, would put Maine tribes on equal footing with others across the country who can self-govern within their territories.

“We’ve got two major issues that we’re trying to tackle,” Caiazzo added. “One is tribal sovereignty and one is introducing sports gaming for the very first time in the state of Maine. I think we have a great opportunity to do them both and do them right. I just don’t think 585 is the right mechanism for that.”

Maine legislature running out of time

The Maine legislature adjourns Wednesday, April 20, if all goes as scheduled. Sources indicate that date isn’t set in stone. The chambers could continue on if the House Speaker and Senate President agree.

With potentially just four days left in the legislative session, the Judiciary Committee has yet to advance LD 585 to the House floor.

Baldacci’s plan is to propose his amendment on the Senate floor after LD 585 comes over from the House.

“I think that we’re actually providing a better alternative for the state of Maine, for the taxpayers of Maine and the tribe,” Baldacci said. “We need to learn how to win-win and not create divisions on this thing.”

Farrin explained a backup plan. If LD 585 fails to pass in any form, the lawmakers are hoping to put pressure on the Appropriations Committee to take LD 1352 off the table and put it through.

“Some would say maybe the governor doesn’t want sports betting passed at all and this is the way to kill it with 585, leaving 1352 on the table, and we go another whole year without implementing sports betting,” Farrin said. “I can’t speak for her, so I don’t know, but one of the things in place is nothing gets done at all.”

Photo by Paul Sancya / Associated Press
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Matthew Kredell

Matthew has covered efforts to legalize and regulate online gambling since 2007. His reporting on the legalization of sports betting began in 2010 with an article for Playboy Magazine on how the NFL was pushing US money overseas by fighting the expansion of regulated sports betting. A USC journalism alum, Matt started his career as a sportswriter at the Los Angeles Daily News and has written on a variety of topics for Playboy, Men’s Journal, Los Angeles magazine, LA Weekly and

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