Maine Legislature Approves Tribal Exclusivity For Mobile Sports Betting

Written By Matthew Kredell on April 20, 2022
Maine tribes to exclusively run mobile sports betting in the state

The Maine legislature handed exclusivity of mobile sports betting to Native American tribes late Tuesday. Commercial casinos and off-track betting parlors get retail sportsbooks.

The legislation, which includes other concessions to tribes, represents a compromise worked out between Gov. Janet Mills and tribal leaders to improve state-tribal relations.

Following House passage by a 81-53 vote Friday, the Senate approved LD 585 by a 23-11 vote Tuesday. With one Senate amendment, the bill went back to the House for quick concurrence.

Once it’s released from the Senate Appropriations table and signed by the governor, LD 585 will end a long and winding journey toward Maine becoming the 34th state with legal sports betting.

The legislature first passed Maine sports betting legislation in 2019 only to have Mills veto it in January of 2020.

Last year, the House and Senate each passed a bill authorizing mobile and retail sports betting to Maine’s tribes, casinos and off-track betting parlors. However, the sponsor pulled his support of the bill and got it stuck in limbo on the Appropriations table after casinos pushed for an amendment requiring online sportsbooks to tether to Maine gaming properties or tribes.

Sen. Joe Baldacci, who pushed for the legislature to go back to the more inclusive bill from last year as recently as last week, supported the governor’s proposal in the end.

“It was a win-win for tribes, and a step forward for Bangor in terms of the casino and attracting business to that area,” Baldacci told PlayMaineOnline.

One amendment for casinos fails while another succeeds

Mills surprised Maine’s casinos in May when she came out with the proposal to give tribes exclusivity on mobile sports betting.

Penn National Gaming, which owns Hollywood Casino Bangor, pushed for the state to go back to the more inclusive LD 1352, which still sat on the Appropriations table.

Last week, Baldacci, who represents Bangor, held a press conference saying he would make an amendment when LD 585 reached the Senate floor. He wanted to substitute the language from LD 1352, adding in 6% of mobile sports wagering revenue to tribes.

But Baldacci, a Democrat like the governor, ended up not offering the amendment. Instead, he worked out a compromise to get the sportsbook in Bangor at the casino property rather than the raceway. Every Senate Democrat voted for the bill.

Sen. Brad Farrin, a Republican who participated in Baldacci’s press conference, put out an amendment to remove all sports betting language from the bill. It failed. Farrin and all but two Republicans voted against the legislation.

Even though mobile wagering dominates the sports betting market, Baldacci acted satisfied in getting a retail sportsbook for his district.

“The in-person is about 20% of the business,” Baldacci said. “There’s an old rule that 20% of a loaf is better than no loaf at all. I’m a pragmatist and I work to try to advance interests of businesses in my district. It comes down to working out something that will be accepted by the majority.”

Who will participate in Maine sports betting

The bill gives exclusivity for mobile sports betting to Maine’s four federally recognized Indian tribes, collectively known as the Wabanaki Nations:

  • Maliseet
  • Micmac
  • Penobscot
  • Passamaquoddy

The governor’s proposal originally excluded commercial casinos from retail licenses, but that was rectified. The bill allows up-to-10 facility sports wagering licenses. Initially, those licenses would go to:

  • Hollywood Casino Bangor
  • Oxford Casino Hotel
  • Scarborough Downs
  • Favorites OTB in Waterville
  • Winners Circle OTB in Lewiston
  • Winners OTB in Brunswick
  • Sanford OTB

Three licenses would remain available for possible future OTBs to open in the state.

Details of Maine sports betting bill

Unlike in most states, Maine tribes don’t have casinos at which to offer retail sportsbooks. The negotiations between the tribes and governor began over Mills’ veto last year of legislation authorizing tribal casinos.

Rep. Rachel Talbot Ross sponsored LD 585 on behalf of the governor. Key details include:

  • A 10% tax on adjusted sports betting, with 1% to the Gambling Addiction Prevention and Treatment Fund and 1.5% split up between various horse racing industry funds.
  • A fee for an initial or renewed mobile sports betting license of $200,000. Licenses are valid for four years.
  • Management services license to manage sports betting on behalf of operator and supplier licenses cost $40,000 over four years.
  • $4,000 fee for a four-year facility sports betting license.
  • Minimum age of 21 to bet on sports.
  • Bets are prohibited on injuries, penalties, and the outcome of player disciplinary rulings or replay reviews.
  • Wabanaki nations may offer any future forms of online gambling authorized in the state.

Other concessions approved by legislature for tribes

In 1980, tribes agreed to be subject to laws and jurisdictions of the state in the Maine Land Claims Settlement Act.

Since then, they’ve been trying to get back their sovereignty, especially after the passage of the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act and explosion of gambling as a revenue-generator for tribes around the nation.

Mills opposes the tribes’ bid for sovereignty. Instead, she offered tribes exclusive mobile sports wagering and tax revisions.

The bill significantly changes state tax laws to treat the tribal nations as governments. They won’t be subject to state sales and income taxes on tribal lands. Instead, they would be able to collect sales tax to reinvest in their communities.

Photo by Charles Krupa / 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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