The state of Maine took an important step forward towards legalized sports betting on Friday with the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee receiving testimony on the five competing bills that would help to make it a reality in the state.
Most important for proponents for sports betting is that there was no formal opposition coming forward against any of the bills. That means, more likely than not, legalizing sports betting in Maine is more of a question of how and when rather than if.
The meeting was dominated by stakeholders, including the state’s two casinos, the harness racing industry and off-track betting parlors making their argument for why Maine needs to legalize sports betting.
Michael Sweeney, the publicity director for Scarborough Downs said, “this is an opportunity for industries that are home-grown, locally based, small mom-and-pop businesses to grow and thrive”.
The Downs has long term plans to redevelop the track as a mixed-use facility and sees this as a great way to bring new business to the project.
Sifting through the five proposals to pick the parts that would best suit the state is still expected to take time.
Some of the varying details include a proposal that would just have wagers allowed at physical places such as the casinos and tracks. Others would also allow online betting and yet others would make special rules for the Indian tribes’ facilities to have their own way of engaging in sports betting.
The tax rate is another aspect that is expected to be scrutinized heavily. There is a huge gap between with various proposals, from as low as 7.5% all the way up to 36%.
Lawmakers will also need to agree on where the new revenues will be spent. Currently money from legalized gambling goes to a mix of college scholarships, municipalities, tribal governments, agricultural fairs and more.
Some experts are cautioning not to expect much of a financial windfall at all, or at least in the short term once legalized sports betting is live. Of the seven new states who have legalized gambling in the last year only two of them have come anywhere close to meeting their projections, namely New Jersey and Delaware.
Rhode Island is the largest cautionary tale as they were hoping for a $1 million windfall in the first year and it’s looking like their take will come in closer to $50 000.
Jeff Morris who works as vice president of public affairs for Penn National, who owns the Bangor casino is one advocate pushing for a low tax rate. He says that sports wagering only yields about $1 out of $100, so the best way for everyone to profit is to see this industry as a means towards an end. Keeping the tax rate low will help bring customers to the facilities and they will then spend more money on hotel rooms, meals and other amenities.
According to him, Low tax rates will not only bring more overall revenue to the government, but help to spur investments in the industry. He pointed out that Pennsylvania is going ahead with a 36% tax rate on sports bets and the result of that is Penn National won’t invest in the sports betting industry there.