Breaking News
More () »

Sports betting proposal headed for debate in full Maine Legislature

The Judiciary Committee passed the amended bill Wednesday on a divided vote.

AUGUSTA, Maine — A proposal from Gov. Janet Mills to allow sports gambling in Maine, with what may be the most lucrative portion reserved for the state's four Native American tribes, has passed a committee vote and is headed for the full Legislature.

The Judiciary Committee passed the amended bill Wednesday on a divided vote, with several members indicating they could support it with additional changes.

That action has complicated the ongoing efforts by members of Maine's gaming industry to pass an earlier sports gambling bill introduced in 2021, which only needs one final vote to be passed and sent to the governor.

The new plan from Mills is in response to a significant tribal sovereignty bill, supported by Maine's tribes, which would give them much more control over what happens on tribal land, including taxes and some law enforcement matters. 

Mills indicated she is likely to veto that sovereignty bill but included a few tribal sales and income tax changes in the measure that also allows sports gambling.

Sen. Bill Diamond, D-Windham, who led earlier efforts to pass a sports gambling bill, said Thursday he senses much legislative support for the idea.

"I do believe legislators, in general, feel it's high time the Wabanaki people get their fair share of this [gambling] because they've been left behind so many times, and I think that's a priority," the senator said.

The governor's proposal would give the tribes exclusive licenses for mobile or online sports gambling and have the state's five OTBs, a casino, and two commercial race tracks share in-person sports wagering.

But that idea has upset Jim Day, owner of Winners' Circle OYB in Lewiston and a long-time proponent of sports gambling.

"Eighty-five percent of the market is online," Day said. "Taking it away and not allowing the brick and mortar locations to compete in that marketplace doesn't give a level playing field."

He said the industry's preferred bill, which went through the state House and Senate in 2021, gives the tribes 40 percent of the mobile business, with the remainder divided among the other facilities.

Day indicated he and others in the OTB business intend to lobby the Legislature to change the governor's proposal before a full vote.

Diamond said it looks like Mills will need to lead a compromise effort to get anything passed.

"She can pull all the parties together and try to negotiate something that will work," he said.

Tribal leaders support the governor's proposal, saying it could deliver significant benefits for the tribes, but are also pushing for the Legislature to pass the broader sovereignty bill, despite the prospect of a veto.

More NEWS CENTER Maine stories


Before You Leave, Check This Out