Maine’s online casino bill, a failed attempt

Lea Hogg 1 month ago
Maine’s online casino bill, a failed attempt

The Maine House of Representatives witnessed a bill proposing the legalization of online casinos, primarily for Maine’s tribes, failing to pass. Despite this setback, the bill was transferred to the Senate. The following day, the Senate not only declined the proposal but also voted to table the issue, leaving a slim possibility of revisiting it before the session’s end.

This marked the second failure of an online casino bill in a US statehouse within a week. Earlier, Maryland’s legislative session had ended on April 8 without legalizing online casinos. Maine’s session is scheduled to conclude on 17 April. The voting details reveal a close contest. The House voted 71-74 against the bill, and the Senate followed suit with a 14-20 vote. Subsequently, the Senate decided to table the bill with a 27-7 vote on 10 April.

Sports Betting and Tribal Rights

In May 2022, Maine had legalized sports betting, granting a monopoly to the state’s four tribes. Interestingly, the tribes were not seeking this right at the time. The lawmakers were pushing a bill to create an open, competitive marketplace. However, Governor Janet Mills sought to extend an olive branch to the four tribes of the Wabanaki Nation. These tribes do not enjoy the same level of federal recognition as most other tribes in the US, and their relationship with the state has been fraught with tension.

As part of the sports betting deal, the tribes were also entitled to offer online casinos. However, the lawmakers needed to establish a framework for this, and legalizing online casinos has proven to be a challenging task. So far, only seven US states have managed to do so.

The controversial provisions of the bill, known as LD 1777, would have barred the state’s two physical casinos, run by Churchill Downs Inc and Penn Entertainment, from offering online casinos. The existing sports betting law already prevents these two entities from operating digital sportsbooks. Both companies opposed the latest online casino legislation. The bill proposed a licence fee of $200,000 and a tax rate of 10 percent..

Lawmakers across various states, including Maine, grapple with the ethical implications of making a wide range of casino games accessible to every resident.

Republican Senator Jeff Timberlake voiced his opposition to Maine’s online gambling proposal. He stated, “This is basically saying people can sit at home and play slot machines on their computer all day long and I just don’t think it’s the right thing to do. It’s a real expansion of gambling in the state of Maine.” This encapsulates the moral quandary faced by many lawmakers in the face of expanding gambling opportunities.

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