Two months after the federally recognized tribes launched online sports betting in Maine, lawmakers have announced public hearings to discuss the expansion of tribal rights to include other forms of gambling. The hearings, scheduled for January 3, 2024, in Augusta, will consider three proposals for tribal operations to include online gambling, casinos, beano terminals, and horse racing.
These proposals come in the wake of the successful passage of a 2022 gambling bill that allowed more than 570 federally recognized Native American tribes to operate sports betting in the state. The bill was met with opposition from Gov. Janet Mills, who relied on the 1980 Maine Indian Land Claims Settlement Act to resist the tribal gaming bill. However, the tribes rallied support from community activists and lawmakers to push the bill forward.
One of the bill proposals, L.D.1777, sponsored by lawmakers such as Rep. Laura Supica, Senate President Troy Jackson, and House Speaker Rachel Talbot Ross, seeks to expand internet gambling to include games of skill or chance offered through the internet. It also outlines the distribution of tax revenue, with 40% allocated to the state’s E-9-1-1 Fund, 20% to the Opioid Use Disorder Prevention and Treatment Fund, and 20% to the Emergency Housing Relief Fund.
Another bill, L.D.1944, would allow the state to negotiate casino developments on tribal and non-tribal lands, while L.D.1992 would permit federally recognized tribes to operate electronic beano terminals and horse racing, with a 10% gaming tax on such operations.
However, Steve Silver, chairman of the Maine Gambling Control Board, opposed the bill, arguing that the approval of tribal gaming would negatively affect the business of the state’s two casinos. He also stated that the current proposal would deprive the state of about $2.4 million for public education and other services.
The three proposals to expand tribal gaming come after the tribes launched online sports betting in November 2023, which generated $887,000 in tax revenue for the state by December 28, 2023. This success has seemingly propelled the current lawmakers’ activities as they consider further expansions of tribal gaming rights.