Maine Legalizes Sports Betting, Hands Mobile Market to Tribes

Posted on: May 3, 2022, 09:21h. 

Last updated on: May 3, 2022, 02:36h.

Maine legalized sports betting on Monday, as Gov. Janet Mills signed a bill that gives the state’s four federally recognized tribes exclusivity on the mobile market.

Maine sports betting
Maine’s Democratic Gov. Janet Mills led negotiations with the tribes on sports betting and other issues but has resisted supporting a wider sovereignty rights package. (Image: Portland Press Herald)

The new law also allows Maine’s two land-based commercial casinos, Hollywood Casino in Bangor and Oxford Casino, to offer in-person wagering on their premises. There are also a limited number of in-person licenses for racetracks and off-track betting facilities.

Mobile operations are expected to account for around 85% of the sports betting market once it launches. Sports betting was part of a wider legislative package designed to afford more sovereign rights to the Penobscot Nation, the Passamaquoddy Tribe, the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians, and the Mi’kmaq Nation, collectively the Wabanaki confederation.

‘Investment Incentive’

The tribes were recognized by a 1980 land settlements bill that afforded them a narrower version of sovereign rights enjoyed by many other Native American tribes, including the right to organize gaming.

Under the 1980 law, their reservations are currently treated like municipalities, which means they are subject to state laws.

This law provides meaningful economic opportunities for the Wabanaki Nations,” Mills said in a statement. “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 led negotiations with the tribes on the measures covered in the legislation, which includes the removal of certain state and income taxes, and the right for the tribes to regulate their own water.

The Passamaquoddy Tribe, in particular, has long been frustrated by poor water quality on its reservation, Indian Country Today reports.

But Mills stopped short of backing a more sweeping legislative package to fully recognize tribal sovereignty. That bill languishes in the legislature because it lacks the two-thirds support it would need to override Mills’ anticipated veto.

Maine Sports Betting Timeline 

While the tribes remain focused on the larger sovereignty package, the modest gains achieved Monday were still the most significant in the state in over 40 years.

“We sincerely appreciate the good faith dialogue and negotiations with the Governor that resulted in these bills,” tribal leaders said in the joint statement. “Neither of those bills represent sovereignty for all Wabanaki Nations and people in Maine. But each does provide important benefits that will strengthen our respective communities.”

There is no time frame for the launch of the market. But LegalSportsReport notes that legislation in Maine becomes effective 90 days after the session ends. That could pave the way for the first operators to appear in later June or early August, in time for the new NFL season.

Once licensed, the tribes would be free to build their own mobile sportsbook, or more likely, partner with an outside operator like DraftKings or FanDuel.