The Long Awaited Launch Of Maine Sports Betting, May Be Soon To Come

Written By J.R. Duren on May 24, 2022
ME Sports Betting: What's A Real Timeline?

A sports betting launch is like Christmas and the DMV all at once. It’s now legal to gamble on sporting events, which is like Christmas for many sports fans and bettors.

But, at the same time, it could take months or multiple years to actually launch sports betting in Maine, making the endeavor more like standing in line at the DMV to get your first driver’s license.

To get a sense of how long it could take to launch sports betting in Maine and what that process would look like, PlayMaineOnline spoke with Gene Johnson, executive vice president at Victor Strategies, a consultancy that focuses on tribal gaming.

How long could it take sports betting to launch?

One of the first questions that comes to mind when sports betting is legalized in a state is, “When can I place a bet?”

With that prevailing question in mind, Victor Strategies did an analysis of data from the American Gaming Association and concluded that the average launch time for retail (sportsbooks at physical locations) is 156 days, on average, while mobile sports betting launches in an average of 237 days.

Meanwhile, Maine Gambling Control Unit Executive Director Milton Champion told the Bangor Daily News earlier this month that the process could take anywhere from eight months to two years. “Two years is unusually long,” Johnson said.

Why would Maine take up to two years to launch sports betting when the average time to launch mobile sports betting is 237 days? Part of that may have to do with funding, Johnson said.

Low licensing fees could slow down process

Maine’s newly minted sports betting law notes that the cost of a sports betting license is $200,000 for four years. New York, on the other hand, charges a $25 million license fee.

While low fees are attractive for sports betting operators, they may slow down the regulatory process, Johnson said, simply because the Maine Gambling Control Unit won’t have the money to hire enough staff to expedite a launch. “I would like to believe they’re under-promising and will over-deliver, but I don’t know,” Johnson said.

Even if Maine has an underfunded regulatory process, there are ways to move the process along, Johnson noted. Namely, Maine regulators can consult with regulatory bodies in other states.

I think it would behoove the Gambling Control Unit to confer with their colleagues in other states for best practices and how to accelerate the launch,” he said. “There are over 32 states now that have legal sports betting and it’s not too hard to find a model from the Nevada Gaming Control Board and New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement and now dozen of other states.”

What will the process look like for Maine’s tribes?

Johnson said that sports betting launches typically happen in two phases: regulatory formation and the actual launch.

Building regulations

During the regulatory formation phase, the state will consult with experts and take public comment to nail down all the rules surrounding:

  • Who gets licenses
  • What the licensing process looks like
  • Rules for how sportsbooks operate
  • Regulatory action against operators and gamblers who break the rules
  • Hiring processes and background checks
  • Gambling addiction programs
  • Self-exclusion rules

As for the tribes, Johnson said they’ve likely started communication with sports betting operators. “Then they’ll have to partner with operators which is a process in itself and find the best match for their particular needs among the two dozen operators,” he said. 

Finding interested operators shouldn’t be a problem. “I think the operators will be knocking on the door of the tribal nations,” Johnson said. “They won’t have to go looking for somebody to run their sportsbook.”

Launching sports betting

Of the two phases required to enact sports betting in Maine, the launch is the most difficult, Johnson said. Why? That has a lot to do with the technical side of kicking off sports betting.

“It’s mainly a technology challenge: making sure that [tribes] have all the pieces in place, [that] the tech works, it’s integrated with your system, that you have the hardware and software required,” Johnson said.

“Most of that will be taken care of by a provider, but whenever you open a land-based property or try launching a mobile service and there are pressures with deadlines and a myriad of things that could go wrong.”

Johnson also noted that the tribes in Maine will face a steep learning curve when it comes to finding operators and launching mobile betting platforms.

However, he said, the tribes should do well because there are a wide variety of resources to facilitate learning and familiarity.

“I think they will quickly adapt, but if they need resources, they’ll be able to find them from both the tribal gaming community and also from the operators,” he said. “The top 10 sports betting providers in the US today are very good at rolling out operations and providing the infrastructure and technology to accomplish it.”

Sports betting as a means of self-sustainment for tribes

Because the new sports betting law gives the Wabanaki tribes exclusive rights over mobile sports betting, it’s going to be a game-changer for the Passamaquoddy Tribe, the Penobscot Nation, and the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians.

Many tribes who are doing well with casino gaming were penniless before that,” Johnson said. “It allowed tribes to preserve their culture and language and it allowed them to be self-sufficient rather than rely on the government for handouts.”

Johnson went on to say that tribes who get the right to run casino gaming and sports betting have a “feeling of accomplishment and self-sufficiency.”

“You can now provide for your tribal members in ways that you couldn’t before,” he said. “I can cite numerous tribes that had very little at all before casino gaming…Gaming provides self-sufficiency and sovereignty.”

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