Amended Tribal-Rights Sports Betting Bill Passes Committee In Maine

Written By J.R. Duren on March 28, 2022
Committee passes amended bill for tribal sports betting in Maine

If a new bill focused on tribal rights becomes law, Maine’s four federally recognized tribes would have exclusive domain over mobile and in-person sports betting.

Key parts of the bill include a provision that would allow retail sports betting at Hollywood Casino’s Bangor Raceway and Oxford Casino.

It’s a small-yet-significant part of a bigger package of reform to the state’s land-claims settlement with the tribes.

The amendment to bill LD 585 reads:

“If conducted by federally recognized Indian tribes in the State, mobile sports wagering will serve as an effective economic development tool for tribal governments and tribal members and provide economic stimulus to rural areas of the State.”

While the amended bill would open up an incredible amount of revenue for the state’s tribes, some involved are not happy.

Amended bill would bring sports betting to Maine

Generally speaking, the amendment to LD 585 would bring sports betting to Maine in the following forms:

  • On mobile devices, via one license for each tribe
  • At Oxford Casino
  • At Bangor Raceway

Each of the state’s four tribes would receive a mobile sports gambling license. The tribes would pay $4,000 to have a license for the first four years. After that, the four-year license a renewal fee would be $200,000, according to the bill. Operators would pay a 10% tax on their adjusted gross sports betting receipts.

The revenue generated from that tax would go to the state’s general fund. Also, a certain percentage of the revenue would be earmarked for various programs and causes:

  • 1% to the state’s Gambling Addiction Prevention and Treatment Fund
  • 0.55% to entities that run harness racing in Maine
  • 0.55% to the Sire States Fund
  • 0.4% to the Agricultural Fair Promotion Fund

As the bill is written, it would allow bets on games as well as prop bets on players. Professional, collegiate, and amateur sporting events would be legal.

However, sportsbooks could not offer bets on high school events and any competitions involving Maine collegiate sports teams. Also, operators would be forbidden to offer bets on injuries, penalties, player disciplinary rulings, or replay reviews.

Like sports betting bills in other states, Maine’s proposed legislation provides details for licensing, disciplinary action, and procedures for denying a license application.

Bangor casino unhappy with bill’s retail sports betting provisions

The amended bill notes that sports betting licenses would be available at commercial horse tracks, off-track sites, and casinos in Oxford Counties. And that’s where the issue is for the owners of Hollywood Casino in Bangor.

In theory, if Oxford Casino had a track or off-track site, then in-person (“retail”) sports betting would likely be licensed at one of those sites. But since Oxford Casino is a standalone entity without associated racing facilities, it’s eligible for a license.

Count it as luck or good lobbying. Either way, Oxford Casino would have a clear advantage over Bangor Raceway.

Chris Jackson, a lobbyist for Hollywood Casino, told the Bangor Daily News that Bangor Raceway is in “such a marginal location that it wouldn’t benefit anybody.”

The counter-argument? Penobscot Nation lawyer Alison Binney told the Bangor Daily News that casinos have had the upper hand over tribal gaming for years.

What’s ahead for Maine sports betting?

The bill advanced from a committee this past week. From there, it would ultimately have to pass both the House and Senate, then win the signature of Gov. Janet Mills.

Should the bill make it to Mills, there’s an infinitely small chance she’d veto it. Mills has been working with the tribes on legislation and is seen as a proponent of what the bill proposes.

Photo by Sean Pavone / Shutterstock
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