Republican Scott Strom has added further weight to calls for the introduction of legal sports betting in the state of Maine, with a guest opinion piece in the Bangor Daily News this week ahead of the return of state legislature on January 8. 

Co-sponsor of LD 553, the bill that aims to legalize sports wagering in Maine, the politician says that the bill’s passage is an opportunity to protect Mainers and deliver a significant blow to illegal operators.

Writing in the BDN, Strom noted: “Nearly two years since the US Supreme Court overturned the law prohibiting sports wagering, Mainers are still left with only one option: the illegal market. Today, the illegal offshore sports wagering industry preys upon Mainers through deceptive advertising, confusing many into thinking they are wagering with a legal, regulated sportsbook. 

“In reality, these sites take money from Mainers while providing no safeguards. Their money is constantly at risk and the illegal sportsbook operators do nothing in the way of identifying problem gambling and ensuring customers have access to valuable responsible gaming tools.”

According to Strom, LD 553 will create a framework that requires all regulated sportsbook operators in Maine to conduct their business in a responsible manner, protecting bettors while delivering an “enjoyable, first-class experience that incentivizes individuals to leave the illegal market”. 

He wrote: “By looking to other states that have gone live with regulated sports wagering, one theme is clear: If we are serious about putting an end to the illegal market, then mobile sports wagering is critical. Nearly 85% of sports wagering activity in New Jersey and Pennsylvania takes place online, and this trend is consistent among other states that have recently begun regulating sports wagering.

Strom, and supporters of LD 553, shouldn’t have too long to wait to discover the bill’s fate, despite it having been with Governor Janet Mills since it was passed by lawmakers last June. She will have three days effective from the reopening of state legislature to either sign it off, do nothing or kick it into the long grass. Sign off or inaction will see it passed into law. 

Concluding, Strom urged Mills to allow the legislation to become law and “…begin eradicating the illegal operators’ stronghold on our consumers”. “Not allowing LD 553 to become law will only serve to benefit select special interest groups and, most of all, illegal bookmakers,” he wrote. “Let’s give consumers a legal alternative, let’s give them safety, let’s give them what the Legislature passed in June.”

Governor Mills does have considerable incentive to pass LD 553 into law, with close neighbors New Hampshire and Rhode Island already operating legal sports wagering. Stalling on legalization now could compromise what many Mainers see as a great opportunity to boost state revenue.