Decision on Maine Online Casino Authorization Pushed to 2024

LD 1777 proposes online casino gaming & sports betting for four federally recognized tribes, but lawmakers opt to delay until at least December to consider it.
Brown rocks near body of water during daytime -- Jordan Pond Path, Mount Desert, Acadia, Maine, US
By
June 06, 2023

We will continue working [on] these bills over the summer. In a move that will delay iGaming in Maine until 2024 at the earliest, state lawmakers tabled a bill to allow four federally recognized tribes in the state to offer online casino gaming and sports betting.

LD 1777 calls for allowing the four tribes — Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians, Mi’kmaq Nation, Passamaquoddy Tribe, and Penobscot Nation — to be licensed for both casino and sports. But at a meeting on May 22, the Joint Standing Committee on Veterans and Legal Affairs unanimously voted to table the bill and 16 others until the next legislative session, which starts in December.

Where the bill goes from here depends on what happens with leadership in the Maine Legislature. Leaders in the House and Senate could overrule the committee’s decision to table LD 1777, in which case the committee would need to take action before the current special session to discuss the state budget ends on June 21. But as of Monday, the bill was still before the committee.

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“We will continue working [on] these bills over the summer,” Sen. Craig Hickman (D-Winthrop) said during the work session the panel held on May 22. “We can do all of the briefings that we need to do on the subject matter and make sure that the [regulator] is involved and that stakeholders and the committee are involved.

“The request we’re making today is for the presiding office to approve our list [of bills to carry over]. They still have the authority to say 'no’ to any bill on our list.” If that happens, LD 1777 will be sent “back to the committee, and we would have to take action on it at that time,” Hickman said.

The bill was introduced on April 25 by Rep. Laura Supica (D-Bangor), who co-chairs the committee with Hickman. LD 1777 was also co-sponsored by Hickman.

Maine lawmakers meet in two separate sessions annually. The first begins on the first Wednesday in December, while the second starts on the first Tuesday of the following January. The next session’s start dates are December 6, 2023, and January 2, 2024.

Sports Betting Has Stalled in Maine

Sports betting in Maine has been legal since last year, but the state’s gaming regulator — the Gambling Control Unit of the Maine Department of Public Safety (DPS) — has yet to finalize rules governing the vertical. DFS is accepting public comments on its proposed rules through June 16.

The bill that Democratic Governor Janet Mills signed into law in May 2022 allowed each of the four aforementioned tribes to have one mobile sports betting license that would have a four-year term and cost $200,000. The tribes could either partner with a third-party platform operator or run their own sports betting app. Sports betting was to be taxed at 10%.

LD 1777 calls for all the same — but the new bill also expands the definition of “internet gaming” to include online casino gaming and sports betting.

To date, Caesars Entertainment is the only operator to express any interest in launching in Maine. Last month, Caesars announced a partnership with three of the four tribes, although it wasn’t clear if sports betting would be conducted under the Caesars Sportsbook brand or under skins custom made for the tribes.

Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians, Mi’kmaq Nation, Passamaquoddy Tribe, and Penobscot Nation, collectively known as the Wabanaki Nations, are recognized by the federal government but are subject to the Maine Indian Claims Settlement, a controversial statute from 1980 that allows the state to regulate tribal affairs — including gaming.

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