Maine became the first state in 2022 to officially legalize sports betting on Monday (May 2) after Governor Janet Mills, a Democrat, affixed her long-awaited signature to legislation after vetoing a more expansive bill more than two years ago.
Each of the state’s four federally-recognized Indian tribes will be eligible to apply for a license to conduct online sports betting in the state as part of LD 585, a bill that includes other provisions dealing with tribal sovereignty in addition to sports betting.
The state’s four tribes are the Aroostook Band of Micmac Indians, Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians, the Passamaquoddy Tribe and the Penobscot Nation.
“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.
“I am proud of the work that the Wabanaki Nations and the state put into drafting this legislation, and I am grateful for the honest effort, the extensive research and the hundreds of hours of negotiations and discussions which bore fruit in this bill.”
Both chambers of the state legislature approved the bill in mid-April.
Tribes will control mobile betting exclusively with one skin for each tribe, while casinos, some state-licensed racetracks and off-track betting parlors will be permitted to operate on-site retail betting.
Operators may contract with a management services provider to deploy an online sportsbook skin, but an official summary attached to the bill states that tribes can only pay the provider up to 30 percent of gross revenues, or 40 percent if it can demonstrate to the Gambling Control Unit that the fee is commercially reasonable.
Tribes must pay a $200,000 license fee and the bill also includes a 10 percent tax on adjusted gross revenues, which includes a deduction for federal excise tax.
The governor’s signature comes after several years of failed attempts to convince Mills to agree to expand gambling.
The first failed effort was a broader sports-betting bill that would have allowed an uncapped number of untethered licenses in the state, and the second was a bill that would have allowed three tribes to operate tribal casinos, both of which Mills vetoed in 2020 and 2021 respectively.
In this instance, Mills reached the compromise with tribes as part of ongoing negotiations to improve tribal sovereignty as a result of a 1980 bill that exempts Maine from federal tribal law, which includes the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.
“We appreciate working with the other Wabanaki Nations and the governor’s office for the past several months to ensure that we have the opportunity to participate in the mobile sports wagering market," Kirk Francis, chief of the Penobscot Nation, said Monday.
“For decades, the Wabanaki Nations have fought for inclusion in the gaming industry. This new law is a meaningful step in the right direction. We now look forward to rolling our sleeves up and bringing this online product to the people of Maine.”
The timeline for a potential launch remains uncertain, as the bill does not include any set timeline for a launch or an impetus for the Gambling Control Unit to finalize regulations. The bill takes effect July 24.
Although the year started slowly for sports-betting expansion, spring has brought a new wave of legalization to the U.S., with Kansas set to become the second state to legalize in 2022 upon the expected signature by Governor Laura Kelly of a bill that cleared both chambers of the legislature last week.
In addition, sports-betting bills have now passed both chambers of the Massachusetts legislature, although a conference committee still needs to iron out significant differences between the two bills, which is far from a formality.
Additional reporting by Tony Batt.