Maine House pulls plug on online casino bill

Maine House pulls plug on online casino bill
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The bill that would have legalized online casino gambling in Maine has been shot down by the state House of Representatives, officially ending the efforts to pass the legislation in 2024.

LD 1777, first introduced in 2023 and sponsored by Rep. Laura Supica, would have given the Wabanaki Nations tribe exclusive access to online casino operator licenses in the state.

The legislation hit several roadblocks in recent weeks. It was expected to receive a vote in January but was put on hold due to a fear of bomb threats against several government facilities across America, and subsequently underwent significant revisions.

It fell short by three votes in the House last week but the Senate revived the effort by a six-vote margin upon request of reconsideration on Tuesday.

That reconsideration had some notable differences from the previous version of the bill, including a provision to send the question of gaming expansion to voters in November. The revised bill would have allowed tribal gaming operators to expand their partnerships with existing online gambling companies to include online casino play.

However, that flicker of life was short-lived. The House rejected the bill again Tuesday, going down by a five-vote margin with one fewer vote of support than it had received last week. Maine’s legislative session concluded on Thursday morning, bringing proceedings to an end.

It is possible that Maine legislators will consider a similar bill again in 2025. However, as state lawmakers are not set to reconvene until next year, the efforts are now dead for the foreseeable future.

A divisive issue within Maine

The bill had faced mixed reviews as the legislative process unfolded. Its advocates argued that it would provide an economic boost for the tribes and their surrounding communities and highlighted that the legislation was expected to generate $100 million for tribes in the coming years.

The opposition largely hinged on the suggestion that it would hurt the state’s commercial casinos by excluding them from the online casino market, as well as potentially increasing risks of problem gambling.

In one prominent statement of opposition Maine Gambling Control Board Chairman Steve Silver wrote an op-ed earlier this week for the Portland Press Herald in which he argued that approval of the bill was not in the best interest of Mainers.

Maine currently hosts one casino, several racetracks, several tribal-run gambling halls and a state lottery.

An end to state online casino movement in 2024?

Rhode Island legalized online casino gambling in 2023 and launched last month to become the seventh iGaming state in the country. efforts have been made in other states to pass similar legislation in the first few months of this year.

As well as in Maine, a push to green-light iCasino operations in Maryland fell short over cannibalization concerns, while efforts in states such as Illinois, Indiana, and New York failed to gather momentum.

North Carolina, which launched online sports betting earlier in 2024, could feasibly discuss the potential of online casino legalization this year when the state’s legislative session begins next week. Rep. Jason Saine advocated for such a move last year but it’s uncertain whether we’ll see any solid movement in the coming weeks.