Maine Grants Indian Tribes Exclusivity For Mobile Sports Betting

April 20, 2022
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Maine’s four federally recognized Indian tribes will control mobile sports betting in the state under the terms of legislation backed by Governor Janet Mills and approved by both chambers of the legislature Tuesday night.

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Maine’s four federally recognized Indian tribes will control mobile sports betting in the state under the terms of legislation backed by Governor Janet Mills and approved by both chambers of the legislature Tuesday night.

The move comes after a years-long debate about the merits of legalizing sports betting in the state and a heated battle as to whether mobile betting would run through the tribes, the state’s two commercial casinos or an untethered model.

LD 585 grants the state’s four tribes (the Aroostook Band of Micmacs, Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians, Passamaquoddy Tribe of Indian Township and the Penobscot Nation) the exclusive right to offer mobile wagering through licenses granted by the Maine Gambling Control Unit.

Each tribe can contract with one management services provider, but the bill caps the revenue share a management services provider can receive from the operator at 30 percent, although it allows the director of the Gambling Control Unit to approve a contract with a revenue share up to 40 percent if “the director determines that the management services licensee has demonstrated that the fee is commercially reasonable given the management services licensee's capital investments and the operator's projected revenues.”

The bill includes a $200,000 fee for a four-year license for each tribe and a 10 percent tax rate on adjusted gross revenues, which includes a deduction for federal excise tax.

Casinos, racetracks and off-track betting sites are permitted to operate land-based sportsbooks under the bill, except for the Penn National-owned Bass Park racetrack.

Earlier proposals would have cut the casinos out completely from sports betting, or would have limited Penn to operating betting only at the seasonal racetrack rather than its Bangor casino property.

The legislation comes as a major step both in legalizing sports betting in the state and progressing tribal gaming rights.

The House approved the plan last week, with the Senate approving the bill with a minor amendment giving Penn the right to operate betting at the casino instead.

The House concurred with the bill shortly thereafter, sending it to the governor’s desk, where she is expected to sign it, unlike in recent instances.

Mills vetoed legislation in 2020 that would have permitted untethered mobile wagering licenses, saying she was “unconvinced at this time that the majority of Maine people are ready to legalize, support, endorse and promote betting on competitive athletic events.”

She voiced concerns over the effectiveness of age verification on mobile betting and advertising saturation, and said that although sports betting would bring revenue to the state, “the same economic premise in theory would justify legalizing all forms of gambling — betting on the weather, spelling bees and school board elections, for instance”.

Mills also vetoed a bill last year that would have permitted three of the tribes to operate casino gaming, reversing a 1980 law that excludes federal tribal law, including the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, from applying to Maine.

However, Mills agreed to grant the tribes sports betting exclusivity as part of negotiations on a larger tribal sovereignty package.

“Giving exclusive rights for mobile sports gaming to the four federally recognized tribes in Maine is essential to restoring economic self-determination,” said Anne Carney, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The bill also includes legislative intent language that may be indicative of future conversations surrounding gaming in the state, such as potential online casino legislation.

“The Legislature finds and declares that the conduct of mobile gaming will, if conducted by federally recognized Indian tribes in the State, serve as an effective economic development tool for tribal governments and provide economic stimulus to rural areas of the State,” the bill reads.

“The purpose of this section is to ensure that each federally recognized Indian tribe in this State has the right to conduct all forms of mobile gaming newly authorized in this State on or after the effective date of this section.”

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