Maine online casino bill all but dead

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It was the second blow in a week for an online casino bill in a US statehouse. Maryland’s legislative session closed 8 April without legalisation. Maine’s session is set to close 17 April.

Maine representatives first voted, 71-74 to fail the bill, then a day later, senators voted 14-20. The senate then voted to table the bill, 27-7 on 10 April.

In May 2022, Maine lawmakers passed legal sports betting, giving the states four tribes a monopoly. The tribes, at the time, were not seeking legal sports betting, and the lawmakers were moving a bill that would have created an open, competitive marketplace through the legislature. But Governor Janet Mills was looking to offer the four tribes of the Wabanaki Nation — which do not enjoy the same level of federal recognition as tribes in most other states — an olive branch. The state and the tribes have long had a contentious relationship.

Seven states offer online gambling

As part of the deal, the tribes are entitled to offer Maine online casino, as well. But lawmakers must create a framework for that, and legalising online casino has proved elusive. To date, only seven US states have done so.

In Maine, LD 1777 would have prohibited the state’s two brick-and-mortar casinos, operated by Churchill Downs, Inc. and PENN Entertainment, from offering online casino. Under the sports betting law, the two cannot offer digital sportsbooks, either. Both opposed the latest online casino legislation.

The bill would have set the license at $200,000 and the tax rate to 10 percent.

‘I just don’t think it’s the right thing to do’

Lawmakers in Maine and other states struggle with the idea of putting an array of casino games into the palms of every resident of their states.

Republican Senator Jeff Timberlake voted against Maine online gambling.

“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,” he said according to Maine Public Radio. “It’s a real expansion of gambling in the state of Maine.”

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