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Maine Sports Betting - Potential November Launch and Optimism from Gambling Control Unit

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Maine's sports betting scene may soon become a reality as the head of the state's Gambling Control Unit expressed optimism that sports betting could be launched by November.

Milt Champion, the director of the unit, provided this timeline as his agency published a revised draft of the rules governing sports betting in Maine. The first draft released in January received nearly 600 public comments, prompting the need for revisions.

The revised rules are now open for public and industry comments until June 16. If substantial changes are not required based on the comments received, the rules will be sent to the Office of the Maine Attorney General for approval. Champion is hopeful that there won't be a need to publish the rules for a third time.

The attorney general's office will have up to 120 days to approve the rules once they receive them. If approved in June, the rules could be endorsed by late October, paving the way for live sports betting in Maine shortly after.

Maine lawmakers passed a bill in May 2022, signed by Governor Janet Mills, allowing the state to join more than two dozen others that have legalized sports betting. While other states have been quicker to launch sports betting, Champion and his small team have been diligently drafting and revising rules to ensure a smooth and successful launch in Maine.

The market for sports betting in Maine is taking shape. The Penobscot Nation Chief, Kirk Francis, recently announced a partnership between his tribe, along with the Maliseet and Micmac nations, and Caesars Sportsbook to operate their share of the mobile betting market. The law grants exclusive rights to the online sports betting market to Maine's four tribes, allowing them to negotiate with sports betting providers. However, the fourth tribe, the Passamaquoddy, has yet to announce any agreements.

The online market for sports betting is highly lucrative, with mobile apps accounting for 87% of all sports bets placed nationwide in 2021. The partnership between the three tribes and Caesars is still pending finalization, as Caesars needs to apply for and be granted a license to operate in Maine. Additionally, Champion's approval is required if the deal awards Caesars a significant portion of the tribes' revenue. The financial terms of the partnership have not been disclosed, but Francis stated that the tribes negotiated together and will benefit equally.

Despite the absence of industry giants like DraftKings, Fanatics, FanDuel, and BetMGM, who announced that they would not pursue business in Maine, smaller companies may be encouraged to enter the market. The revenue cap of 30% to 40% for providers likely deterred the larger betting companies. The remaining mobile contract presents an opportunity for smaller providers to establish themselves as key players in the state.

In terms of revenue distribution, providers will receive 30% to 40% of the gross revenue, while 10% of sports betting revenue (after payouts to bettors) will go to the state. In 2022, Champion estimated that this could amount to $3.8 million to $6 million annually.

Champion's target launch date of November is dependent on several factors, including the upcoming public comment period. He urges interested businesses to apply for participation in sports betting as early as possible, as delays in applications could further postpone the live launch.

Businesses should also take note of the eased advertising regulations, which now permit celebrity endorsements as long as they don't target minors and remove the restriction on advertising only during the events being wagered on.

As Maine progresses towards the potential launch of sports betting, stakeholders and enthusiasts eagerly anticipate the realization of a regulated and exciting market in the state.

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