Maine launched the formal process for instituting sports betting on Wednesday by publishing the proposed rules, but it will be months before the first bets are placed, officials said.
The law adopted by state lawmakers went into effect in August, but the director of the Maine Gaming Enforcement Unit said it was important to move slowly to get the rules right.
A schedule set by Milt Champion suggested the licenses could be issued between April and January. He said he couldn’t be more specific until the public weighed in in the coming weeks.
A public hearing is scheduled for January 31.
“I know this is a hot topic. I know everybody wants it during the Super Bowl or during March Madness. But let’s face it. It’s just not going to happen” that fast, he told reporters.
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Democratic Gov. Janet Mills handed control of the online and mobile sports betting market to Native American tribes in Maine, providing an olive branch after her veto threat scuttled her proposal for greater sovereignty.
Online and mobile betting is expected to account for 85% of the sports betting market in Maine, providing a revenue conduit for tribes. Each tribe can select its own provider, which means there could be up to four licenses for the Penobscot Nation, the Passamaquoddy tribes in Indian Township and Pleasant Point, the Houlton Band of Maliseets, and the Mi’kmaq.
Existing Maine casinos in Bangor and Oxford can also apply for licenses along with backcountry gambling halls.
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Thirty-six states have already legalized sports betting since a US Supreme Court decision in 2018 opened the door to sports betting.
New England, New Hampshire, Connecticut and Rhode Island allow sports betting, and Massachusetts is waiting to launch after legalization, said Dan Wallach of the Sports Betting and Integrity Program at the University of New Hampshire School of Law.
In Maine, sports betting is expected to generate between $3.8 million and $6.9 million in revenue for the state, on top of $64 million from casinos and other legal gambling in 2022, Champion said.
Champion said Wednesday that Maine did not recreate the wheel with the proposed rules. Maine has looked at rules that already exist in other states and modeled the state’s rules on those, he said.
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He said he would like to see gambling this summer, when tourists visit the state, but said there are no guarantees.
It depends on factors including how the public comment period plays out and the length of a review by the attorney general, he said.