Several states are poised to offer legalized sports betting in the coming weeks and months, but don’t expect to find it in Maine anytime soon.
Maine would need a new law for casinos here to cash in on Monday’s U.S. Supreme Court decision that paves the way for states to venture into the billion-dollar industry.
“I would say we were behind the 8-ball and that’s not uncommon for Maine to be that way,” said State Rep. Donald G. Marean, R-Hollis, who also serves as vice-chair of the U.S. Trotting Association.
Milton Champion, executive director of the state’s Gambling Control Board, said there is no sports-betting legislation pending in Maine. Champion said he did not expect the prospect of sports betting to come up during the board’s monthly meeting on Tuesday.
State Rep. Louis Luchini, D-Ellsworth, said he anticipates multiple bills on sports betting will be introduced during the 2019 legislative session.
“In my view under the current law, Maine would have to pass a law to expressly legalize sports betting,” Luchini said.
The Supreme Court ruling leaves the door open for federal regulation, which Luchini said could make some states hesitant to move forward with sports betting laws for risk of having them overturned.
“Congress could regulate sports gambling, but they haven’t done it, so states are free to establish their own laws,” Luchini said. “But there could be a risk of federal regulations at any time.”
The Oxford and Hollywood casinos, along with Scarborough Downs, Bangor Raceway and the state’s four off-track betting facilities (located in Sanford, Brunswick, Lewiston and Waterville) are best-positioned to handle sports betting in Maine, Marean said.
“They’re already set up, already regulated, and have laws they have to follow,” Marean said.
Bangor Raceway and the Hollywood Casino are both owned by Penn National Gaming, which has casinos and race tracks in 16 states and Ontario. Penn National has holdings in New Jersey, West Virginia and Mississippi – three states identified by industry experts as prepared to have legal sports betting within weeks.
Several other states, including Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, could be in the legal sports betting game within three months – in time for the college and professional football seasons.
“Some states, such as West Virginia, Mississippi and Pennsylvania, have already passed legislation to allow for sports betting and will now begin the process of implementing those laws,” said Jeff Morris, Penn National’s vice president for Public Affairs and Government Relations.
“As of today, this process has not yet occurred in Maine. However, we look forward to participating in those discussions should they happen. Sports betting could … drive incremental tax revenue for Maine.”
In 2017, Maine earned $54.5 million in tax revenue from the state’s two casinos.