AUGUSTA, Maine — Sports-betting legislation won’t move forward in 2020 after the Democratic-led Maine House of Representatives on Tuesday fell short of the two-thirds majority that was necessary to override a veto from Gov. Janet Mills.
Maine would have been the 21st state to enact sports betting after it was allowed in a 2018 U.S. Supreme Court decision. The Maine Legislature passed the bill in 2019 following careful negotiations by the gambling committee during which the main sticking point was whether betting would be tethered to physical facilities.
The Democratic governor held the bill and vetoed it in January, saying she was “unconvinced” that Mainers wanted to expand gambling and saying the state should wait to learn from others paving the way in the new market. Another 20 states — including New Hampshire — have passed laws allowing betting, according to The Action Network.
In a surprise, the Maine Senate voted 20 to 10 on Thursday to override the governor’s veto after Sen. Lisa Keim, R-Dixfield, voted accidentally to override the veto. The House followed with a 85-57 vote on Tuesday, falling short of the two-thirds requirement.
The Tuesday vote was heavily lobbied by casinos in Bangor and Oxford that opposed the law and mobile betting sites that backed it. Only one member of Bangor’s four-member House delegation — Rep. John Schneck, the Democratic co-chair of the gambling committee — voted to override the veto. House Minority Leader Kathleen Dillingham, R-Oxford, also voted to override.
It fell across party lines, with 56 Democrats and 25 Republicans voting to override the veto and 28 Republicans and 27 Democrats stopping them from reaching the 95 votes required. Opponents of the bill made moral arguments against gambling expansion or betting on sports.
“There are marriages that have been destroyed, bank accounts that have been depleted and suicides that have occurred all over the country because of gambling,” said Rep. Roger Reed, R-Carmel.
Supporters of the bill noted that illegal betting is already going on and noted the state’s involvement in the lottery business. Rep. Jeff Evangelos, I-Friendship, said the state “can’t legislate fun and people have fun doing this.”
The measure would have allowed mobile, online and in-person betting on sporting events. Casinos, tribes, commercial tracks and off-track parlors would have been able to apply for in-person licenses with revenue taxed at 16 percent for mobile and online betting and 10 percent for in-person betting.
The Maine State Police’s gambling unit estimated between $3.8 million and $6.9 million in annual revenue for the state from sports betting. That estimate was likely low because it assumed a flat 10 percent tax rate. Mobile and online betting generally dominate the market, with New Jersey saying last year it made up 80 percent of the betting handle.