Maine Online Sports Betting Bill Veto Overridden By Senate

Maine Online Sports Betting Bill Veto Overridden By Senate

The Maine Senate on Thursday overrode Gov. Janet Mills’ veto of a sweeping online and retail sports betting bill, likely opening the way for legal sports betting. After securing the two-thirds super majority vote in the upper chamber, the second part of the two-step override vote heads to the House, which overwhelmingly passed the legislation last year.

This means Maine sports betting, barring another unforeseen roadblock, will be legal. Regulated sports betting should begin sometime this year, likely ahead of the 2020 football season.

Maine will be the first state to allow retail sports betting and untethered online wagering, positioning Maine as the most-robust sports betting market in New England and possibly opening the door for other states to permit similar structures.

What Happened

The Democrat-controlled Senate voted 20-10 to overturn the veto from Mills, also a Democrat. The override measure now goes to the full House.

  • Bill Passes Legislature: The Supreme Court struck down the federal sports wagering ban in May 2018. Less than a year later members of the Senate, spearheaded by Sen. Louis Luchini, championed a bill to permit betting in Maine. After months of negotiations, the bill passed the Senate 19-15 and later passed out of the House with minimal opposition.
  • Mills Vetoes: Despite support in both the Democratic-controlled Senate and House, Mills bucked her party and “pocket vetoed” the bill in June in the waning days of the regular 2019 session. The provision in Maine law prohibited a veto override until lawmakers reconvened for the 2020 session. Back in Augusta, Mills again vetoed the legislation, writing the state needed to “examine the issue more clearly.”
  • Senate Vote: Luchini said he would seek to override the second veto hours after Mills’ announcement. After building support in the Senate, backers including Senate Majority Leader Nathan Libby whipped up support for the proposal, with the override vote coming weeks after the second veto.

Bill Details

Maine, the 42nd-most populated state, won’t move the needle much for the national sports betting market, but its first-of-its-kind structure could serve a roadmap for jurisdictions across the country.

  • Online Wagering: The bill permits one retail as well as one tethered online sportsbooks at the state’s lone horsetrack; four off-track betting facilities; two commercial gaming facilities; and four casinos on sovereign Native American lands. Online wagering should be far more consequential; as much as 90% of wagers are placed online at mature markets such as New Jersey.
  • Competitive Taxes: The retail tax rate is 10% of gross gaming revenue, which puts it near the national average, while the online rate is 16% GGR, among the higher internet tax rates but a rate that should allow digital sportsbooks to put out a competitive product. The initial $2,000 licensing fee is the lowest in the country.
  • New Ground: More significantly, Maine’s bill is the first in the country to permit an uncapped number of “approved mobile applications or other digital platforms.” That means, in theory, any credible mobile sports betting operators, including leading companies such as DraftKings, FanDuel, BetMGM, among others, could enter the market without having to strike a partnership deal with one of the state’s land-based gaming facilities.

What’s Next

Assuming Maine avoids another sports betting curveball, the nation’s 21st sports betting market could be legalized in the next few days.

  • House Vote: The full House could match the Senate’s veto as early as its next scheduled meeting, Feb. 11. Assuming there is not some groundswell of opposition in the seven months since it approved the bill without a formal roll call vote, at least two thirds (or 102 members) of the House will approve, and the sports betting bill will pass into law.
  • National Landscape: Maine will almost assuredly join Puerto Rico, Washington D.C. and 20 states that are either taking bets or have approved bills to do so. It will be the third in New England, after Rhode Island and neighboring New Hampshire.
  • Bottom Line: This puts more pressure on lawmakers in Massachusetts, Vermont and Connecticut all considering sports betting bills in their respective 2020 sessions. The model that permits retail sports betting at traditional gaming venues as well as both tethered and untethered online wagering could be a model for the dozen additional states set to consider bills this year.

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