As legal sports betting and online gambling sweep the US, the pressure is on in Maine to expand its current gambling laws.
Five bills on the slate
Many Maine residents are hopeful that by March Madness 2020 they will be able to partake in legal sports betting.
Two sports betting legalization bills have gotten a full presentation to date. Three more sports betting bills are currently pending at the State House, still in the draft stages.
Eight states now have open sportsbooks, with many more set to follow suit in the near future. Unsurprisingly, Maine is looking to get in on this trend early and eke out its own space in the market.
Representative Jeffrey Evangelos is sponsoring one such proposal. He said: “It is pretty obvious why we are doing it. It is fun and everyone else is doing it. Why shouldn’t we get a piece of it, too?”
The big issue before sports betting could become legal will be the debate about the level of taxation and how to allocate revenues. It is hard to estimate what the size of the underground sports betting market is currently in the state, so there are no clear estimates as to how much the state could gain from legalization.
A number of states have earned underwhelming tax revenues in comparison with the initial estimates since the ending of the federal ban.
Some parties in Maine have concerns about potential corruption taking place in sports, as well as the levels of problem gamblers increasing.
What’s in the bills?
The bill Evangelos sponsors would see sports betting for those 21 years old or older, both offline and online. There would be a $30,000 license fee and a 25% tax rate. Most of these funds would go towards educational programs.
The bill from Representative Dustin White would permit 18-year-olds to place sports bets, but only at the retail racetracks and physical betting parlors. There would be a $5,000 license fee and an 18% tax rate. Most of these funds would go into the state’s harness racing industry.
Both of these bills contain clauses aimed at preventing cheating in sporting events. White believes that retail-only sports betting will be of much more benefit to the local economy. Some believe that having a high sports betting tax rate will see sportsbook operators being discouraged from offering sports betting due to the already tight margins.
According to the vice-president for communications at Penn National Gaming, Jeff Morris: “Once the tax rate creeps over 10%, the financial balance gets much more difficult.”
Gambling in Maine
Currently, there are four betting parlors off track in the state and you can make horse racing bets and buy lottery tickets at 18 years old. You must be at least 21 to gamble at a casino.
Harness racing is a popular activity to place bets on in Maine since it became legal in the 1950s. Currently, there are two tracks in operation – the Scarborough Downs and the Hollywood Racetrack.
While racing is still popular in the state, its interest has been waning in recent decades across the US. This is why many racetracks have been given the go-ahead to add gaming machines to their facilities.They provide an additional form of revenue that allows the tracks to stay profitable and keep their doors open. This is what is happening in Maine’s two racetracks.
The state lottery has been running since 1974 and is always a popular pull for locals. Residents also have access to inter-state lotteries such as Mega Millions, as well as New England-only lotteries.
Since the Indian Regulatory Gambling Act in 1988, tribes have been looking to establish a gaming presence in Maine. Two high stakes bingo facilities operate on reservation lands, while the tribes are pressing to open fully encompassing casino facilities.
A state referendum in 2010 legalized commercial casinos in Maine, and there are currently two in operation. The Oxford County Casino opened in 2012, with the Hollywood Bangor Casino following suit a year later. They offer gaming machines, poker and table games.