Maine House fails to override sports betting veto

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AUGUSTA, Maine (WABI) - Maine State lawmakers came up short of overriding Democratic Governor Janet Mills’ veto in the House of Representatives, meaning sports betting will remain illegal in the state.

Following the 2018 Supreme Court decision to allow states to legalize sports betting, states rushed to get it passed.

Maine lawmakers took it up last year. The Veterans and Legal Affairs committee spent weeks crafting the bill. It passed unanimously in the House and by majority vote in the Senate, only to be vetoed by Mills.

State Rep. Scott Strom, R-Pittsfield, the bill’s co-sponsor, did everything he could to get the votes, but lobbying efforts for the opposition were too strong.

"I'm very disappointed," said Strom immediately after the failed House vote Tuesday. "This bill passed the Senate and House last summer. It didn't even get a roll call in the House. Not one person rose to call for a vote or to speak against the bill. And it's very disheartening today that so many people seem to have changed their mind, and in a lot of cases we have a lot of representatives down here that need to get permission today from the Maine Christian Civic League before they can vote for a certain bill and they just didn't get that permission today and that's why they voted their 'no' vote."

The Christian Civic League says they are concerned about gambling addiction.

"We're looking more at families, what it does to individuals," said Michael McClennan, Policy Director for the Christian Civic League of Maine. "We know it's out of the gate, we know it's coming, but we still have to advocate for those people that their lives are ruined because of this thing that many people called fun today."

Tuesday's vote would not even of occurred if not for a mistaken 'yes' vote by State Sen. Lisa Keim, R-Dixfield, in last week's 20-10 Senate override.

Keim declined to comment but we're told that she accidentally voted the wrong way and by the time she realized it, it was too late.

"It seemed to occur that one of the Senators who was an ally of ours voted incorrectly, not the way that she wanted to do it," said McClennan.

Proponents of legalization cite the benefits it could have for Mainers: $3.5-6.5 million of additional revenue and a safer avenue to bet than offshore books.

Matthew Freedman is Editor-in-Chief of FantasyLabs, a fantasy sports analytics website that’s part of The Action Network, a leading sports betting platform. He says he's seen firsthand the perks of sports betting legalization.

"The key part is that you're giving up a lot of money that could benefit the people of Maine, and people are going to be betting on sports anyway. And if that's the case, you might as well enable them to do it in an environment that is safer, and in a way that benefits everyone else whether they choose to sports bet or not," said Freedman.

He predicts that within the next 5 years, 35-45 states will have legalized some form of sports betting. So far, 20 states have passed legislation.

"Every year there are billions of dollars that leave the United States economy and go offshore and sit in accounts where people sports bet," said Freedman. "I think I'd be better as a country, as a state, to have all of that economy."

Mainers will have to wait to partake in legal sports betting for the time being, unless they cross the border into New Hampshire where it is legal.