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Bill to legalize mobile sports betting advances in Maine legislature

Bill to legalize mobile sports betting advances in Maine legislature
Bill to legalize mobile sports betting advances in Maine legislature
Published: Mar. 18, 2022 at 10:39 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Maine (WMTW) - Maine’s Judiciary Committee advanced a bill Wednesday which would allow four Wabanaki tribes to obtain statewide licenses to administer sports wagering.

The bill went through the committee with an 8-6 vote and will now face the full legislature.

The four tribes: The Penobscot, Passamaquoddy, Maliseet, and Mi’kmaq, negotiated the bill with the Mills administration. Gov. Janet Mills had previously vetoed a bill legalizing sports wagering in 2020.

Sports betting is a part of a larger effort to repair the relationship between the Native American nations and the state government since the Federal Maine Indian Claims Settlement Act of 1980.

“Tribes have access to federal legislation called the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act,” said Maulian Dana, the tribal ambassador for the Penobscot Nation. “And that is what oversees a lot of these tribal casinos you might see in other places. Because of the 1980 settlement act, we don’t have access to federal legislation in Maine.”

The bill’s detractors cite the comparatively low tax rate for gambling revenue as compared to other states. The rate in the proposed bill would be 10%.

“I believe the tax at a minimum should have 25% go to the general fund,” said Representative Christopher Babbage (D-Kennebunk). Babbage voted against the proposed bill in the Judiciary Committee.

“The state has obligations to schools, to public safety, to essential services and infrastructure,” Babbage said. “And if we’re going to give permission to do sports betting, which will involve a great deal of Mainers, then we ought to help the Maine taxpayer offset some of the necessary expenses that we have an obligation to meet.”

Dana says the onset of sports wagering will lift up the tribal economies, and in turn will help the state economy.

“The tribal nations are largely in rural areas in the state,” Dana said. “So when we are lifting up our own communities and our own economies, we’re really going to be helping a lot of Mainers around us as well.”

The bill would also allow the Oxford Casino and Hollywood Casino in Bangor to obtain in-person sports betting licenses, along with harness racing tracks in Bangor and Cumberland.

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