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Maine governor vetoes sports betting bill


Janet Mills, governor of Maine, has vetoed a bill that would have allowed sports betting in the state, arguing that the people of Maine are not ready for sports betting.

Mills praised the bill’s intention in bringing sports betting away from the black market, but said she did not believe such a bill at this time was the will of the people of her state.

“I believe this bill is a good effort by those who wish to bring out into the open a black market activity that is practiced by many now and who want to regulate that activity without over-regulating or overtaxing it so as to drive it back underground,” Mills said. “The bill is a step forward towards achieving that delicate balance.”

“But, respectfully, I remain unconvinced at this time that the majority of Maine people are ready to legalize, support, endorse and promote betting on competitive athletic events.”

Mills added that she would rather see Maine examine the successes and failings of legal sports betting elsewhere in the US before a bill is passed in Maine.

“Before Maine joins the frenzy of states hungry to attract this market, I believe we need to examine the issue more clearly; better understand the evolving experiences of other states; and  thoughtfully determine the best approach for Maine,” Mills explained.

“That approach needs to balance the desire to suppress gambling activities now being conducted illegally and the need to protect youthful gamblers and those least able to absorb losses under a closely regulated scheme.”

In addition, Mills said she was concerned that the bill may not do enough to prevent young people being exposed to gambling through advertising. She acknowledged that mobile sportsbook operators were able to employ sophisticated mechanisms to detect problem gamblers and underage play.

“But it is difficult to envision a system which does this and at the same time would employ broad based marketing and aggressive advertising in social media and on television, including ads during the very games on which live bets are being placed,” she added. “These ads would unduly draw in people who should not be risking money impetuously because of youth or financial or family circumstances.

“It may be that the regulations permitted by this bill would allow reasonable oversight of marketing and access to youth. But that is far from certain given the federal and regional jurisdiction over much of the relevant media.”

The one-line bill, Legislative Document 553, was filed by Senator Louis Lucchini in January 2019 and passed the Senate on 19 June, the final day of the 2019 legislative session after passing the House the day before.

However, it remained on the governor’s desk for more than six months due to a clause in Maine’s constitution. Under Article IV, Part III, the governor does not need to sign or veto a bill passed at the end of a session until 10 working days after the start of the next one.

If Mills had not vetoed the bill, it would have automatically passed into law.

The Maine Legislature now has the power to overrule the veto if two-thirds of both the Maine House of Representatives and the Maine Senate vote to do so. While the bill passed the house in a verbal vote, suggesting a very strong majority behind it, it passed the Senate by a 19-15 margin, meaning it would need to find new support in the upper house for an override.

In order to flesh out the one-line bill, Maine legislature’s Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee developed the regulatory framework for sports betting in the state.

The bill would have opened up the market to all of the state’s brick-and-mortar gaming venues, such as commercial racetracks, off-track betting facilities, and commercial and tribal casinos. It would also have allowed mobile operators to apply for licences without the need for a land-based partner in the state. Land-based licensees will be taxed on 10% of sports wagering revenue, while mobile will be subject to a 16% tax rate.