You are here

Maine Lawmakers Pass Sports Betting But Governor Delays LD 553

Maine Map

In the realms of school and work, the last day of the year is typically when the smallest amount of work is accomplished. In Maine’s state government, however, the opposite proved true as lawmakers overwhelmingly moved to legalize sports betting at physical locations as well as on mobile devices on June 19: just hours before the legislature adjourned its session on the morning of June 20.

LD 553, as the sports wagering bill is designated, passed through the Senate with a vote of 19 – 15. In the House, however, a verbal vote was sufficient to record the approval of that chamber. This makes Maine the latest in a group that includes New Hampshire, Illinois, and Tennessee as states that have moved to legalize and regulate sports betting in recent months.

Legalized Sports Betting Coming to Maine

Sports Betting Delayed

Exclamation Point

Though legislators were undoubtedly pleased to have achieved the prospect of legalized Maine sports betting, the very tardiness with which legislators finalized their bill is responsible for a probable delay until January 2020. Governor Janet Mills (D) had 10 days from its passage to either sign or veto the bill, but she took no action. After this 10-day period elapses, bills normally become law even if the governor has not signed them.

However, because the legislature was not in session at the end of the 10-day timeframe, LD553 was instead put on hold. This means that when the legislature reconvenes, most probably in January, the bill will automatically become law unless Governor Mills vetoes it within three days.

Janet MillsGovernor Janet Mills Refused to Either Sign or Veto LD 553, Keeping It in Limbo

The sports betting law is just one of dozens of bills in Maine that have been “held by the governor” this year. In a statement on the governor’s official website, she said:

The Legislature has passed a significant number of bills this session, and I take seriously my constitutional obligation to thoroughly review all of them, evaluate their implications, and decide whether they are in the best interest of Maine people. In order to meet that responsibility, I will continue to review these bills and gather more information, and I look forward to acting on them at the beginning of the next legislative session.

Most observers felt that it was highly likely that Mills would sign the bill. Despite her refusal to affix her timely signature to it at present, most believe that she will not take the drastic step of vetoing it the next time the Maine Legislature meets.

[UPDATE: Feb. 22, 2020]

After the Maine Legislature reconvened in January, Governor Mills exercised her option to veto the sports betting bill on Jan. 10. In a letter explaining her reasoning, Mills stated that “I remain unconvinced at this time that the majority of Maine people are ready to legalize.” In an interesting twist, she also cited fears that legalizing such wagering would open the door to “betting on the weather, spelling bees and school board elections, for instance.”

On Feb. 6, the Maine Senate held a vote on overriding the governor's veto. The measure passed by 20-10, meeting the two-thirds requirement for countermanding the veto.

However, on Feb. 11, the Maine House held a similar vote, and the outcome was different. The 85-57 final tally was not sufficient to nullify Mills' veto; 94 “yes” votes were required.

Many political observers believe that this failure of the sports betting law was ensured by last-minute lobbying from casino interests and anti-gambling advocates. The casinos evidently view the prospect of sportsbooks opening up in the state as an unwanted form of competition. In addition, Janet Mills apparently called all Democrats in the House to persuade them to vote against the bill.

Maine Sports Betting Details

Magnifying Lens

Though many are disappointed at the unfortunate delays introduced before wagering on sports goes live (assuming the governor doesn’t wind up vetoing it), Maine’s bill is nevertheless being praised widely. For a state of its small size and economic impact, Maine has created one of the best pieces of sports betting legislation we have seen – and the entire text runs to only 23 pages plus an additional 2-page Fiscal Note!

This piece of legislation is being lauded as one of the more progressive among other similar bills passed in other states because online/mobile betting has been a mainstay since the beginning. Moreover, the reasonable licensing fees and tax rates have earned it the appreciation of free market advocates.

Residents and visitors to Maine who can prove that they are at least 21 years of age will be able to place wagers at Maine’s handful of casinos and racing betting locations as well as over the internet. Betting on college athletics is allowed with the exception of contests involving Maine schools.

Hollywood Casino BangorThe Hollywood Casino in Bangor Is One of the Arenas Allowed to Pursue Licensure for B&M Sports Betting

The tax rate is split with online and brick-and-mortar licensees being taxed at differing rates. For physical betting facilities, revenue will be taxed at a rate of 10% while operators of mobile betting platforms will see revenues charged at a 16% rate. Licensee fees are set at a mere $2,000 for live gambling parlors and $20,000 for online platforms.

As for who will regulate the newly-formed sports betting industry in Maine, that much is being left up to The Maine Department of Public Safety’s Gambling Control Unit, which already oversees the casino and Daily Fantasy Sports industries in the state.

Who Can Obtain a License?

Question Mark

There was little controversy around the stipulation that authorization to conduct B&M sportsbook business is restricted to the existing instate gambling operators. It is worth noting, though, that there was some opposition as it relates to whom mobile licenses would be given to.

Some lawmakers argued that those who received online licenses should be tied to the community in which they operate. In other words, there was a push to have online operators tethered to a physical betting location, such as an existing off-track betting site or casino.

One of LD 553’s sponsors, State Senator Louis Luchini (D), commented on why the tethering option was not pursued to any great degree. In his remarks, he said:

“To me, it’s a strange way to write a law that would require a new business to come into Maine only if they tether their license to an existing business. We don’t require Amazon to tether to existing grocery stores and we don’t require Airbnb to tether to hotels.”

Louis LuchiniState Senator Louis Luchini Sponsored the LD 553 Sports Betting Bill

According to the bill itself, applicants for mobile sports betting licenses must fulfill at least one of the following requirements:

  • Must be a licensed commercial track (horse/dog racing)
  • Must be a licensed off-track betting facility
  • Must be a licensed casino or slot machine facility
  • Must be a federally recognized Maine Indian tribe
  • Must be a qualified gaming entity

Most of these requirements are straightforward, however the phrase “qualified gaming entity” is a bit confusing. This is the entry point for outside companies to dip their toes into the legal Maine sports betting market.

The bill defines “qualified gaming entity” as:

a gaming entity that offers sports wagering through mobile applications or digital platforms in any jurisdiction in the United States pursuant to a state regulatory structure.

In other words, mobile operators from states where sports betting is already happening, like New Jersey and Nevada, will be eligible. This seems sensible because, clearly, these entities will have the knowledge of how to operate a mobile betting platform, minimizing any learning curve that might exist for completely new mobile operators.

Revenue Projections

Bills + Coins

The levelheaded representatives of the sober Yankee population of Maine didn’t permit themselves to get carried away by over-optimistic financial projections. The Fiscal Note attached to LD 553 foresees collecting a modest $1.9 million in taxes from the first year of Maine sports wagering. This is expected to grow to more than $5.5 million by the fourth year.

With a population of slightly more than 1.3 million, this fourth-year projection works out to $4.21 per Maine resident. This is an eminently sensible target, unlike some of the more pie-in-the-sky figures calculated by other states that have dabbled with legalized sportsbooks.

Bet Online Now!


Mainers who wait for LD 553 to become law and for the Gambling Control Unit to issue the proper licenses won’t be able to bet until probably well into 2020 at the earliest. Yet, there’s another option awaiting you if you should choose to pursue it.

Offshore bookmakers are willing to ply their trade within The Pine Tree State, and their international bases are outside the effective policing of the federal and state authorities. And, as we discovered while compiling information for our page dedicated to Maine online poker, state law does not penalize those who gamble merely as players without deriving any other economic profit or consideration from this activity.

This means you’re free to bet today at the online sportsbooks of your preference without having to wait for the officials in Augusta to get their act together. Read our  rundown of USA-serving, reputable bookmakers for more information on this topic.

If you would rather try your hand at casino gaming, then our overview of the best internet casinos for Americans may interest you. If poker is more what you crave, then our informative guide to the USA online poker ecosystem may just deliver what you’re after.