The hottest phrase in New England Gambling is “Online Sports Betting.” Maine is attempting to be the fourth state to allow retail and mobile sports betting. The latest try advanced a tribal-rights compromise bill. It looks to lead Maine into the new sports betting market in the northeast. However, much of the state opposes the latest legislature that puts Maine Mobile Sports Betting in Tribal Hands.
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Maine lawmakers have been preparing a bill to repair the relationship between the tribes and the state. However, it is not a sweeping overhaul of a 1980 land-claims settlement. That would have given tribes control over natural resources, taxation, and land policy.
Maine is among the states discussing allowing wagers on professional sports after the U.S. Supreme Court paved the way in 2018. It struck down a federal law barring sports gambling in nearly all states except Nevada.
The Wabanaki Nations
The Maine Indian tribes are the Maliseet, Micmac, Penobscot, and Passamaquoddy. They are the Wabanaki Indian Nations. Each community maintains its tribal government, community schools, and Cultural Center and manages its respective lands and natural resources. Most of Maine’s Native people belong to one of these four federally recognized groups and reside on tribal lands. Other Native people live in towns and cities across the state.
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Maine Mobile Sports Betting in Tribal Hands – Exclusive Rights
The amendment, proposed by Governor Mills, would allow the tribes to access Maine mobile sports betting licenses exclusively. Tribal mobile rights would change the Maine gaming landscape, excluding the tribes since 1980.
In recent testimony, Mills’ general counsel Gerald Reid told lawmakers, “This proposal would provide a significant economic opportunity that brings none of the controversies [in Maine] that has historically been associated with new casino development,” he said. The plan would “incentivize economic development on tribal lands and provide meaningful relief within some of our most economically marginalized communities.”
The only gaming allowed by tribes is found in the Penobscot Nation. In Old Town, ME, Penobscot High Stakes Bingo has 1,800 seats. It’s only 400 seats less than Foxwoods and would have been bigger than Foxwood’s 30th Anniversary new Bingo Hall slated for 2023. Maine’s unique pact with the native tribes is the only one in the Nation not to allow Class II gaming operated by the tribes.
Oxford Hotel Casino and Hollywood Bangor Feel Left Out
Are the two brick-and-mortar casinos in Maine being ignored in the push for tribal sports betting? This proposal shuts Maine’s two brick-and-mortar casinos from the mobile sports betting business. These casinos have provided years of economic impact, tax payments, and hundreds of jobs for Bangor, Oxford, and the entire state.
“…expanding gaming without similar opportunities for existing brick and mortar casinos, will hurt these facilities, stagnate development, and cost jobs.”Dan Walker, Oxford casino lobbyist
While the tribe would gain exclusive rights to online sports betting, Maine’s off-track betting facilities could apply for retail or “on-site” sports betting under the bill. This would be available for Hollywood Bangor Casino and Raceway, leaving Oxford Hotel and Casino without options.
Strong Opposition to Maine Mobile Sports Betting in Tribal Hands
Maine Mobile Sports Betting in Tribal Hands cites the comparatively low tax rate for gambling revenue compared to other states. The rate in the proposed bill would be 10%, but many believe it should be higher.
“I believe the tax, at a minimum, should have 25% go to the general fund,” said Representative Christopher Babbage (D-Kennebunk). Babbage also voted against the proposed bill in the Judiciary Committee.
“The state has obligations to schools, public safety, essential services, and infrastructure,” Babbage said. “If we’re going to permit sports betting, which involves Maine residents, we ought to help the Maine taxpayer offset some of their necessary.”
Supposedly, the bill can allow the Oxford Casino and Hollywood Casino in Bangor to obtain in-person sports betting licenses. This includes harness racing tracks in Bangor and Cumberland. But, both Hollywood Casino, Oxford Casino, and the Sports Betting Alliance, including FanDuel and DraftKings, spoke out against it, according to LegalSportsReport.com.
Maine Mobile Sports Betting in Tribal Hands will begin more discussions and compromises from both sides. Sports betting is a small piece of a more extraordinary multi-bill tribal sovereignty package. But it certainly is the part that attracts Mainers’ attention.
The facts remain:
- Gov. Janet Mills has vetoed sports betting legislation previously.
- She is on board with this effort.
- The bill was “barely” advanced in the legislature.
- The sports betting bill that passed both chambers last year sits on the Special Appropriations Table, waiting to be engaged.