Less than half a year after shelving a bill that would have legalized and regulated online casino offerings, including online poker, Maine’s legislature will renew consideration of the measure amid tribal lobbying for a multi-pronged gambling expansion in the state.
The bill, Legislative Document 1777 (LD 1777) / House Paper 1140 (HP 1140), is one of three gambling-related measures that were brought up in a hearing on Wednesday before the Maine House’s Committee On Veterans and Legal Affairs. The hearing in essence reactivated HP 1140, which was introduced in April of 2023 but was shelved three months later, having been viewed as arriving too soon after the state’s 2022 legalization of sports betting.
HP 1140 would grant online-gambling exclusivity to the state’s four federally recognized tribal nations, including sports betting, which at the present time is available only live in the state. The bill was introduced last year by State Rep. Laura Supica, who remains one of the bill’s primary supporters. “The revenues will allow the tribes in Maine to invest in businesses education, health care, infrastructure and a host of other areas that will benefit tribal citizens and their rural Maine neighbors,” said Supica.
Under the bill’s terms, 18% of all regulated gross gaming receipts would go into various state coffers. 10% of GGR would go into the state’s general coffers, 1% would go for increased expenses incurred by the state’s Gambling Control Unit, and the other 7% would be earmarked for special programs, including gambling- and drug-addiction funds.
Opposition from land-based casinos expected
Maine’s two land-based, commercial casinos are expected to oppose the bill, particularly the tribal-exclusivity nature of the measure. Those casinos are Hollywood Casino Bangor and Oxford Casino in Oxford; Maine has no large tribal-operated, land-based casinos at the present time.
“This would be the single largest expansion of gaming in the state’s history, without a doubt, and with no vote of the people, so this is literally a casino on any iPhone, Android, MacBook, tablet and other such thing,” Hollywood Casino and Raceway Attorney Chris Jackson told Bangor’s Fox23 News, indicating the casino’s opposition. Hollywood Casino Bangor is a Penn Entertainment property.
Online poker would account for only a tiny slice of the revenue generated should HP 1140 or a similar measure become law. Maine’s population of 1.4 million residents likely makes it too small to be a viable standalone online-poker market. Though more populous than Delaware (1.03 million), the state would be a candidate to join an entity such as MSIGA and pool players with other states.