Gambling Legislation Updates: Maine and Missouri

  • A Missouri Senate bill aiming to legalize gaming machines and sports betting reached an impasse
  • A hearing took place in Maine on Friday morning regarding sports betting legalization bills
  • Time is running out in Missouri as the legislative session ends on May 14
  • Representatives from the NFL, casinos, and sportsbook operators gave testimony in Maine
Man with a goofy, quizzical look on his face giving thumbs up and thumbs down
Legal sports betting and the licensing of video gaming terminals in Missouri looks less likely this year, while a hearing took place regarding legal sports betting in Maine. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Mixed fortunes

A proposal to regulate video gaming terminals and legalize sports betting looks like it is running out of time in Missouri. In Maine, a hearing took place on Friday morning during which a number of gaming and casino representatives provided testimony to show their support for sports betting legalization.

looking to ban as many as 20,000 video game terminals

The bill in the Missouri Senate reached an impasse this week. It was looking to ban as many as 20,000 video game terminals that offer cash rewards to players across the state. It would simultaneously allow the introduction of up to 10,000 licensed machines. This legislation also sought to bring legal sports betting to the state.

The Maine sports betting hearing took place in the House’s Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee. Four different bills are under consideration at the moment in the state.

Not looking too good in Missouri

Unregulated video gaming machines in Missouri are generally in places like truck stops, convenience stores, and bars. The government does not get any revenue from them and they act in a “gray market.” The current legislative session ends on May 14, so time is running out as Senate Bill 98 is now a part of the informal perfection calendar. Bill sponsor Senator Denny Hoskins could still push to reintroduce the bill for further consideration.

illegal gaming will continue to spread across our state until we take action to regulate it”

Senators did debate the proposal for some time. Hoskins was surprised that the measure did not receive approval. He said: “I have impressed upon my colleagues (that) illegal gaming will continue to spread across our state until we take action to regulate it.”

Between legalizing sports betting and regulating the video game terminals, the state could have benefitted by up to an estimated $200m in additional annual tax revenue. As part of the original proposal, the Missouri Gaming Commission would be in charge of issuing sports betting licenses to the 13 casinos in the state.

The main reason for the setback was because Senator Mike Moon’s amendment received sufficient support. This amendment calls for a public vote on the bill in November 2022 and slows down the process of pushing through legislation. Senator Hoskins opposes a public vote, preferring the legislature decide.

The hearing in Maine

Four different sports betting bills are under consideration in Maine. During the hearing on Friday, Penn National Gaming’s Jeff Morris testified against the idea of having an untethered and uncapped sports betting market. Instead, he was in favor of legislation that would require partnerships with land-based facilities.

The NFL’s VP for public policy & government affairs Jonathan Nabavi also provided testimony, mainly regarding sports integrity issues. He backed Representative Tim Roche’s tethered bill. Among the other groups that contributed testimony were the Division of Support Enforcement and Recovery and the National Council of Problem Gambling. DraftKings, FanDuel, and BetMGM provided joint written testimony.

Senate President Troy Jackson’s bill would also tether sports betting to land-based facilities and has backing from the harness racing sector. Senator Joe Baldacci’s bill would see the bulk of tax revenue from legal sports betting go toward funding education programs.

A previously unsuccessful legalization attempt

Maine was close to legalizing sports betting in 2019, but Governor Janet Mills vetoed the bill after it got approval in the legislature. Attempts to override the veto came up short in February 2020. Senator Louis Luchini’s bill aimed to allow both retail and online sports betting. The senator reworked his former proposal in order to address the Governor’s previous concerns and it is up for consideration during the current legislative session.

The legislative session in Maine ends on June 16, so there is still plenty of time to consider these bills. Currently, the only states in New England that have legal sports betting are New Hampshire and Rhode Island. Casinos in Maine were among the worst performers in the country in 2020, so getting in on a legal sports betting market would likely be of great help to them.