Maine Black Bears basketball player blocking shot blue jersey

Bradley’s Zek Montgomery, left, goes to the basket against Maine’s Vukasin Masic in the first half Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021 at Carver Arena. The Braves defeated the Black Bears 71-39.

  • Gov. Janet Mills signed a sports betting bill into law
  • The bill gives state tribes exclusive control over online sports betting
  • Maine casinos can only offer retail sports betting

Maine sports betting is on its way, for real this time.

Maine Gov. Janet Mills signed a bill into law yesterday legalizing sports betting in the Pine Tree State. Both the House and Senate approved a sports betting bill last summer, but the legislation never went to Mills for her signature and it never became law.

Maine Tribes Control Online Sports Betting

Bill LD 585 will give the Penobscot, Passamaquoddy, and Maliseet Tribes exclusive control over online sports betting in the state and will also legalize retail sports betting for state casinos and off-track betting establishments. Each tribe can partner with up to one online sportsbook operator.

“This law provides meaningful economic opportunities for the Wabanaki Nations. It incentivizes investment in Tribal communities, and it formalizes a collaboration process on policy that sets the foundation for a stronger relationship in the future,” Mills said in a statement.

The tribes will control an estimated 85% of the sports betting market in the state, as online sports betting comprises the vast majority of all sports betting markets. The bill also includes concessions to the tribes, such as tax relief and consultation rights with the state for issues that would directly affect their affairs.

The original version of the bill did not include retail sports betting for Maine casinos, shutting out the establishments from the market altogether. However, representatives from Penn National Gaming (Barstool Sportsbook), which owns a casino in Bangor, led a charge to amend the bill. Legislators relented and allowed wording into the document that included retail sports betting, but no online sports betting, for the casinos and off-track betting establishment.

The bill will go into effect 90 days after the legislative session ends. The state’s session ended on April 25, so a potential launch by the fall isn’t out of of the question.

Maine Sports Betting Long Time Coming

Last year, Maine legislators approved bill LD 1352, which would have legalized statewide in-person and online sports betting. However, it was never brought to Mills for a signature and it never became law. The bill had a strange journey to approval, as its original sponsor Senator Louis Luchini (D-7) actually spoke up in the 2021 session and asked that legislators vote his bill down. Luchini originally wrote his bill as not having a tethering requirement for online sports betting, which became a controversial point of the betting plan.

Luchini’s original draft of the bill proposed a Maine sports betting plan that would open the state to an uncapped amount of online sports betting licenses that would not have to be tethered or partnered to a brick-and-mortar facility.

Tethering is “anti-competitive and anti-free market,” he explained last year.

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