LD 585, Maine’s tribal relations bill that includes sports betting language, passed through the Judiciary Committee last week. The bill already has the support of Gov. Janet Mills.

  • Maine’s Senate Judiciary Committee approved LD 585 – a tribal relations bill that would regulate sports betting in Maine – during a session last week.
  • The bill would allow for tribal operators to offer both land-based and mobile sports betting while permitting a limited number of commercial land-based sportsbooks at approved locations.

AUGUSTA, Maine – Last week, the Maine Judiciary Committee passed an amended version of LD 585, a tribal sovereignty bill that includes a section that would regulate sports betting, primarily through tribal entities.

The committee made some notable changes to the bill during the session Wednesday.

Maine Judiciary Committee Passes Amended Bill Including Sports Betting

Under LD 585, there would be a total of four sports betting licenses issued to tribal operators.

During last week’s session, the Judicial Committee approved an amendment that would allow for additional licenses to be issued to commercial operators.

Maine’s OTB (off-track betting) facilities also will be granted sports betting licenses, according to the original LD 585. Under the new amendment, two of Maine’s horse racing tracks will also be issued sports betting licenses.

There will also be two additional licenses earmarked for race tracks or off-track betting facilities that have yet to be built.

LD 585 Born Out Of Negotiations Between State And Tribes

LD 585 is the result of extensive negotiations between Gov. Janet Mills and Maine’s tribal entities. The overarching goal of the bill is to improve Maine’s tribal relations by fostering open communication between the two parties while altering tax policy to improve the economic situation of tribal-associated individuals.

The mobile sports betting component of the bill, in particular (which would grant Maine’s tribes an exclusivity agreement for mobile sportsbooks) is thought to be among the most impactful changes for Maine’s tribes economically.

While the fruits of these negotiations have certainly improved the prospects of legal sports betting in Maine, according to legislators, LD 585’s passage is not dependent on sports betting – in other words, sports betting is not considered an integral part of the bill package.

The sports betting component of LD 585 (though agreed upon by the Governor’s administration and Maine’s tribal administrations) has also been subject to some disapproval by some influential Mainers.

Among these were representatives for both of Maine’s commercial casinos – the Hollywood Casino in Bangor and the Oxford Casino in Oxford – who spoke against the bill during last week’s sessions.

Most of the opponents to the bill were against the aforementioned mobile sportsbook exclusivity agreement with the tribes; representatives from Maine’s commercial casinos argued that only adding land-based sports betting at their casinos would be insignificant, akin to upgrading their buffet.

Potential Compromise?

There is some hope for everyone to be happy, however. In 2021, the legislature passed LD 1352, another sports betting bill that would have allowed both tribal entities and commercial operators to offer land-based and online sportsbooks.

Despite passing through both Maine’s Senate and House of Representatives, the bill is considered unlikely to receive support from Gov. Mills, who vetoed a similar sports betting bill in 2020.

Several legislators who voted in opposition to LD 585 claimed they would support the bill if the sports betting section of LD 585 was replaced with the sports betting language of LD 1352.

However, it seems unlikely that LD 585’s sports betting section is replaced by language from LD 1352. This is for several reasons, but the most important is that LD 585 already has the support of Gov. Mills, who has long been luke-warm on the idea of legal sports betting.

To abandon a sports betting bill that already has the support of Mills may delay sports betting for a considerable amount of time. And – as several legislators pointed out during the sessions – there will be plenty of time to alter LD 585 in the future if necessary.

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