Maine could be on the path of legalized sports gambling, ready to join a growing number of states that are looking to grab a piece of an industry reportedly worth over $150 billion each year. The question isn’t so much whether or not the state should embrace the activity but, rather, how it should embrace it.
Last Friday, state lawmakers met with representatives from Maine’s two casinos and its off-track gambling parlors to discuss how to proceed with sports gambling. There are currently five bills on the subject being circulated around the state’s Congress and clarification is needed on how to govern the industry.
The publicity director for Scarborough Downs, Michael Sweeney, asserts that legalized sports gambling will bring additional revenue to the state, as well as businesses like Scarborough Downs. He told lawmakers, “This is an opportunity for industries that are home-grown, locally based, small mom-and-pop businesses to grow and thrive.”
The good news for Maine is that creating a legal sports gambling framework shouldn’t be too difficult. The state already has its two casinos—Hollywood Casino in Bangor and Oxford Casino in Oxford—and a number of other gambling options that are currently regulated by state officials. Adding sports gambling would not require a completely new legal framework.
However, as usual, there is going to be some resistance. Apart from those who simply believe that sports gambling isn’t needed and that they have the right to get involved because they have nothing better to do, there are those who continuously argue that sports gambling will lead to great gambling addiction. This argument has been proven to be false on a number of occasions, but some individuals can’t keep up with the times.
Maine’s Veteran and Legal Affairs Committee accepted testimony last Friday on all five of the bills addressing sports gambling in the state. It was a step forward, but there is still more work to be done. However, at least there are some who recognize the benefits of legalizing the activity, even if those benefits are only going to be marginal. The executive director of the Gambling Control Unit, Milton Champion, asserted in the hearing, “There is only so much discretionary funds available, in my view, indicates that New England has or is very close to reaching its saturation point. It is essential, however, that we have the ability to offer what the competition offers. And by competition, I am referring to other states.”
Rhode Island is the only state in the New England region to have legalized sports gambling. However, the state has not seen the revenue it once predicted. This could be due to the fact that the state’s industry is immature—it was only introduced in the last quarter of 2018—and needs time to grow as gamblers switch from their current habitual gambling platforms to the newly legalized sportsbooks.