The public hearings on tribal gaming rights will occur on Wednesday, with the bills expected to be opposed by Janet Mills, the governor in Maine.
The proposals come in the wake of Maine opening its sports betting market in late 2023. Having long been an opponent of allowing betting, Mills granted tribes the rights to sports betting before the launch in November.
However, LD 585 states internet sports wagering can only be run by approved tribes in the state. Tribes can apply for a licence to operate online betting. They may also partner one online operator each.
Tribes are now looking to expand into igaming and Wednesday’s hearings in Augusta could take them one step closer to acquiring the exclusive rights for online betting.
Sports betting an early success in Maine
The first month of legal betting in Maine saw more than $37.0m (£29.1m/€34.0m) wagered on sports in the state.
With total handle amounting to $37.6m, DraftKings was the early leader in the opening month. Having partnered with the Passamaquoddy tribe, DraftKings posted $4.3m in adjusted gross receipts with a $30.5m handle.
Caesars’ handle lagged well behind with $7.1m, with gross receipts of just $382,374. Caesars is live in Maine thanks to partnerships with three of the Wabanaki nations. These include the Houlton band of Maliseet Indians, Mi’kmaq nation and Penobscot nation.
Tribes fighting for sovereignty
Tribal gaming is on the rise, with the National Indian Gaming Commission’s annual report for 2022 showing revenues rose 4.9% in 2022 to $40.9bn. That $1.9bn year-on-year gain is the highest ever recorded.
However, tribes remain on edge with politicians and commercial gaming interests potentially cutting into their rights on gambling.