- Associated Press - Thursday, February 6, 2020

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) - The Maine Senate kept alive a proposal to allow sports betting in the state, voting 20-10 Thursday to override the governor’s veto. The bill now faces a vote in the House, likely next week.

Democratic Gov. Janet Mills vetoed the bill last month, saying she was “unconvinced” that the majority of Mainers were ready to “legalize, support, endorse and promote betting on competitive athletic events.”

The bill would allow casino operators, off-track betting facilities, Native American tribes and harness racing tracks to host sports betting with wagering taxed at 10%. Online and mobile betting would be taxed at 16%.

“People recognize that there’s this big illegal market. Setting up a regulatory system would offer consumer protections and a safe way to gamble on sports, while generating revenue for the state,” said Sen. Louis Luchini, who sponsored the bill.

Luchini, a Democrat from Ellsworth, said he is willing to work with the governor to tweak the bill to address her concerns if it becomes law.

The Senate’s vote to override Mills’ veto - by a single vote - sends the proposal to the House, where another two-thirds majority vote would be needed to become law. The previous House approval last year came without a roll call vote, so it’s unclear what sort of hurdle the bill could face in that chamber.

Many states across the country have been racing to adopt laws since a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2018 opened the door to sports betting.

In New England, New Hampshire and Rhode Island allow sports betting, and sports betting bills are pending in Connecticut, Vermont and Massachusetts, said Dan Wallach, co-founding director of the Sports Wagering and Integrity Program at the University of New Hampshire School of Law.

“Sports betting is a colossal industry, and none of that economic opportunity is being captured by states that fail to adopt sports betting laws,” he said.

When she vetoed the bill, Mills said the state needs to take a closer look at sports betting before jumping headlong into it. Maine already has two casinos, one in Bangor and one in Oxford in western Maine.

The casino operators lobbied against the bill because they wanted sports betting be tied to brick-and-mortar operations.

The casinos already benefit from what amounts to a monopoly, so it’s only fair to open up sports betting to other entities, Luchini said.

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