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Rival sports betting bills considered in Maine Legislature

LD 1352 and LD 585 have only one main difference: how the state's Indigenous tribes would be affected.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Right now, gamblers can bet on sports in 30 states, according to the American Gaming Association. In three other states, sports betting is legal but not yet up and running.

In Maine, lawmakers are considering two bills that address sports betting. The big difference between them is how the state's Indigenous tribes would be affected.

A tribal sovereignty bill amended by Gov. Janet Mills, LD 585, would give all revenue from online sports betting to the tribes. The original bill, LD 1352, gives them a percentage.

LD 1352 passed in the Maine House and Senate and is currently waiting for funding from the Appropriations Committee.

Mobile gambling accounts for about 85 percent of all sports gambling.

"One of the first things I want to express is that we want to have this a win-win. We're not looking to create divisions. I think the governor's bill, unfortunately, creates divisions," Sen. Joe Baldacci, D-Penobscot, said. 

The division Baldacci said he's referring to is giving all the online gambling rights to the tribes. Instead, he, along with Sen. Brad Farrin, R-Somerset, Rep. Chris Caiazzo D-Scarborough, and industry leader Jim Day, said in a press conference they should give the tribes the same licenses as the rest of the state.

"I think it will generate more revenue for the state of Maine, which in turn will benefit the tribes even greater," Farrin said.

Tribal leaders said they favor the governor's amendments and that if the original sports betting bill goes into law, the tribes fear they will be left out.

"It really would be away for us to have economic development and be able to self determine how we're going to spend those funds," Chief Clarissa Sabattis of the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians said. 

Despite a potential veto, members of Maine's Indigenous tribes also urged the Legislature to pass the tribal sovereignty bill.

Ultimately, those in favor of sports gambling want to keep the money in Maine.

"Why are we letting New Hampshire gain our income? If it's already there, again, 30 states are doing it, so it's an activity that's already in existence," Day said.

LD 585 bill was released from the committee Thursday night and will go to the Maine House for a vote.

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