Maine Native American Tribes Request iGaming Rights Following Introduction of Sportsbooks

Posted on: January 3, 2024, 10:00h.

Last updated on: January 3, 2024, 10:00h.

Online sports betting in Maine began in November following the passing of legislation in May 2022. This permitted the state’s tribes to team up with sportsbook operators.

Maine tribes iGaming casino gambling
Maine tribal members campaign for sovereignty on April 11, 2022, outside of the governor’s mansion in Augusta. A more than 40-year-old law limits the ability of Maine tribes to self-govern and remain autonomous from the state. (Image: AP)

The 1980 Maine Indian Land Claims Settlement Act has limited the sovereignty of native communities, treating them more like municipalities than sovereign nations, in contrast to most other states.

In return for financial reparation and land recovery from the US government, the tribes agreed to forfeit some of their federal Indian rights, unless the state agrees to a gaming revenue-sharing agreement.

The tribes have pressed lobbyists to secure gaming advantages, with Gov. Janet Mills finally agreeing in 2022 to grant exclusive online sports betting rights to the tribes.

Furthermore, sports betting is prohibited at the state’s two commercial casinos — Hollywood Casino Hotel & Raceway in Bangor and Oxford Casino Hotel.

iGaming Bills Introduced

The Maine legislature has convened in Augusta for its 2024 session, with a bill submitted to expand the tribes’ gaming privileges to include iGaming with interactive slot machines and table games.

Legislative Document No. 1777 was authored by Rep. Laura Supica (D-Bangor), who wants the state’s tribes to partner with operators like DraftKings to manage online casino games, with a 10% share of gross winnings going to the state.

While the Maine Gambling Control Board supports more internet gaming, its chairman wants both commercial casinos and the tribes to be included.

“Maine absolutely should consider legalizing internet gaming,” said the chairman, envisioning an “open, free-market approach” including both the casinos and the tribes.

Rep. Ben Collings (D-Portland) has proposed a bill allowing the state to negotiate revenue-sharing terms with one or more tribes, in an effort to prevent them from opening casinos in counties where commercial casinos operate.

Maine Sportsbooks

Two of Maine’s four tribes have already launched online sportsbooks: the Passamaquoddy Tribe with DraftKings and the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians with Caesars Sportsbook.

Two other federally recognized tribes in Maine are the Mi’kmaq Nation and Penobscot Nation.

Despite having a population of under 1.4 million people and no professional sports teams, bettors have already wagered more than $38.6 million on sports through the two apps as of Dec. 28, 2023.

The state takes a 10% cut of the net sportsbook win, which amounted to about $370,000 during the same time period.

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