Maine Lawmakers Approve Sports Betting Bill with Higher Online Tax Rate

Posted on: June 21, 2019, 07:50h. 

Last updated on: June 21, 2019, 07:50h.

The Maine State Legislature passed a bill earlier this week that would enact sports betting across the state. It now heads to Gov. Janet Mills , and if she signs it into law, The Pine Tree State will become the 15th state in the country to allow wagering on sporting events.

Maine state Sen. Louis Luchini (D-Ellsworth), the bill’s sponsor, said it did not make sense to make online sportsbooks partner with a retail betting establishment. (Image: Troy R. Bennett/Bangor Daily News)

While most of those interested in sports betting focused their attention on the happenings in New York, Maine’s legislature quietly worked to pass the bill in its final days of the session. The state Senate voted 19-15, with one excused member, to pass L.D. 553 after the House approved the bill without debate.

According to the bill, the state’s two casinos, Hollywood Casino in Bangor and Oxford Casino, would be able to apply for a retail sportsbook license, as would the state’s racetrack, Scarborough Downs. The four off-track betting parlors and the four tribal communities in the state also would be eligible to seek licenses.

However, one thing that makes Maine’s bill unique from other states is that it keeps online betting separate from the retail books. That means online providers do not need a bricks-and-mortar partner to enter the state’s sports betting marketplace.

On the Senate floor Tuesday before the bill passed, state Sen. Louis Luchini (D-Ellsworth) said the approach taken in New Jersey did not make sense to him.

We don’t require Amazon to tether to existing grocery stores, and we don’t require Airbnb to tether to hotels,” the bill’s sponsor said.

After she receives the bill, Mills has 10 days, excluding Sundays, to consider the bill. If she neither signs the bill nor vetoes it, the bill becomes law without her signature.

If passed, Maine would join Rhode Island as the only other New England state to allow sports betting. However, lawmakers in neighboring New Hampshire passed a bill last week that is now sitting on Gov. Chris Sununu’s desk.

Separate Tax Rates

While online sportsbooks would be independent, Maine lawmakers did take a page out of New Jersey’s law by taxing them higher than their retail counterparts.

The up to 11 retail sportsbooks would have their gross revenues taxed at 10 percent. The state would tax online providers at 16 percent.

“We did want to help out the brick and mortar establishments that are here in Maine and have employees in the state,” state Rep. Scott Strom, R-Pittsfield, told WGME-TV.

According to the bill’s fiscal note, the state expects sports betting to generate more than $5.2 million in general fund revenue annually by the 2021-22 fiscal year.

Other Details

The bill calls for the Department of Public Safety’s Gambling Control Unit to regulate and oversee sports betting. Retail sports licenses would cost $2,000 and must be renewed annually. Online sportsbooks must pay $20,000 to apply or renew their annual licenses.

Bets on athletic events involving Maine’s collegiate teams would be off the boards. However, the bill does allow for in-game betting on professional and all other collegiate sports. In addition, the legislation allows bets to be taken on electronic sports.

The bill also does not require the licensed sportsbooks to buy subscriptions for official league data. It also allows fantasy sports providers to offer games using college athletes.