Key Maine Senate Committee Hears Sports Betting Testimony

Key Maine Senate Committee Hears Sports Betting Testimony
© USA Today

A Senate committee in Maine on Friday began the legislative process to legalize sports betting in the state.

The Senate Committee on Veterans and Legal Affairs on Friday conducted its first hearing on four sports betting bills, highlighted by Senate Bill 1352 — sponsored by Sen. Louis Luchini (D-Hancock). The bill resembles legislation passed by the Maine Legislature in 2019. That bill was vetoed by Gov. Janet Mills and the veto was upheld by the House.

RELATED: More about Maine sports betting and gaming

The other three separate bills include LD 1404, which legalizes sports betting and helps strengthens public education; LD 1405, which regulates, taxes and controls sports wagering; and LD 1527, which ensures proper oversight of sports betting in the state.

SB1352 allows for retail and mobile sports betting, sets a 16% tax rate on all GGR for mobile sportsbooks (10% on land-based) and gives OTB and tribal gaming facilities, racetracks and casinos the option to apply for a license. One license will be given to any operator approved after paying a $20,000 licensing fee with the application. College sports betting is allowed except on schools in Maine.

The committee on Friday heard public testimony on all four bills. Here are some of the highlights:

For LD 1527, a 3½-page letter was submitted as written testimony by Jonathan Nabavi, vice president of public policy and government affairs for the NFL.

“There is no greater priority for the NFL than protecting the integrity of our games and the welfare of our players," Nabavi wrote in the letter. "Fans, players, coaches and personnel deserve to know that we are doing everything possible to ensure no improper influences affect how our games are played and that we are taking all appropriate steps to ensure that their participation in our games is not subjected to unfair and unwarranted allegations relating to sports gambling."

He then went on to list four core standards from the NFL that the committee should consider: a legal, regulated sports betting environment with substantial consumer protections; protection of NFL content and intellectual property, including from those who attempt to steal or misuse it; fan access to official, reliable league data; and adequate resources, monitoring and enforcement tools necessary for law enforcement to protect fans by eliminating the illegal sports betting marketplace.

Horsemen Endorse LD 1405

For LD 1405, written testimony was provided by Michael Cushing, President of the Maine Harness Horsemen’s Association.

“Distinguished members of VLA have before you several sports wagering bills. Sports betting is a trend that is fast growing across the nation. The allure to join the other states is understandable, given the obvious economic gains for our state. However, it is crucial that the approval of such legislation is done with considerable forethought, in order to maximize the benefits without damaging Maine's existing gaming partners,” Cushing said in his submitted testimony.

“That being said the Maine Harness Horsemen’s Association endorses only LD 1405. LD 1405 ties sports wagering to brick and mortar betting locations, including Maine's existing OTBs, commercial racetracks and casinos. This will strengthen these facilities, and more importantly introduce a new clientele to Maine harness racing. Harness racing is the industry that paved the way for all forms of gaming. Should a form of sports wagering be passed that does not consider the already fragile industry of harness racing, it could very well damage us beyond repair.”

Harness racing in Maine supports all 26 agriculture fairs within the state.

What’s Next in Maine?

After Friday’s hearing, the committee will begin the work session process to bring aspects of all four bills into one to present to the legislature. No timetable has been set and no votes have been taken to move any of the four pieces of legislation out of committee.

New Hampshire and Rhode Island are the two New England states with legal sports betting.

After an agreement with the state’s tribes, Connecticut is working on passing legislation. Massachusetts has introduced a slew of sports betting bills and Vermont has explored it.

The Maine legislature adjourns for the year on June 16.

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