AUGUSTA, Maine — A key sports betting measure got new life in the Maine Legislature by one vote last week only after a senator from Oxford County accidentally voted to override a veto from Gov. Janet Mills, according to another bill opponent.
It looked like the bill, which initially passed the Legislature last year and would tax and regulate betting on sporting events after it was allowed in a 2018 U.S. Supreme Court decision, would die when the Democratic governor vetoed it last month. The Maine Senate instead set up a crucial override vote in the Democratic-led House slated for Tuesday.
Sen. Lisa Keim, R-Dixfield, opposed the measure when it passed last year. On Thursday, she voted with 15 Democrats and four other Republicans to override the veto in a 20-10 vote. That made Keim the deciding vote. She declined comment on the move.
But Carroll Conley, the executive director of the Christian Civic League of Maine, which opposes gambling expansion, said in a Monday interview with WVOM that Keim, who is allied with the Christian conservative group on most issues, voted accidentally to override Mills’ veto.
Video of the vote shows Keim voted “yes” on overriding the veto after other Republicans who opposed it initially voted that way. They later changed their vote to “no” before Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, closed the tally and Keim did not. It was the first time a Mills veto has been overridden in either Democratic-led chamber.
Conley said he was confident that his side had the votes to uphold Mills’ veto and was in a State House hallway working on another issue during the vote. He then saw Rep. Scott Strom, R-Pittsfield, who supports the bill, leave the Senate chamber with a smile. Conley said Keim later told him her vote was a mistake and her word was “good enough for me.”
“She’s one of the most well-respected legislators in the body,” he said of Keim in an interview. “I certainly agree with those sentiments.”
Jackson spokesperson Christine Kirby said Keim told the Senate president that she voted the wrong way after he walked onto the chamber floor. By that point, the bill had already been sent to the House and couldn’t be reconsidered. Minority Republicans lodged no protest.
The bill passed the Senate last year by four votes. It hasn’t faced a roll-call vote in the House. If Mills’ veto is overridden in that chamber, Maine would be the 21st state to enact a sports betting law, according to The Action Network. It would tax revenue at 16 percent for mobile and online betting and 10 percent for in-person betting.
Casinos in Bangor and Oxford opposed the final version of the measure after they and off-track parlors argued betting should be tethered to physical facilities. They have lobbied lawmakers heavily since Mills overrode the veto. The casino in Oxford is outside of Keim’s district, which lies in the northern portion of Oxford County, but it employs people from across the region.