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Maine’s four federally recognized tribes have inked an exclusive deal with Caesars to bring mobile sports betting to the state.
It’s the first such agreement since Gov. Janet Mills (D) signed legislation legalizing sportsbooks last spring. That was an important moment for the tribes, as it marked the first time they have been legally permitted to offer any kind of gambling in the state.
The bill handed exclusivity on the mobile sports betting market to the tribes – the Penobscot Nation, the Passamaquoddy Tribe, the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians, and the Mi’kmaq Nation, collectively known as the Wabanaki Confederation.
It also legalized retail sports betting at the state’s two casinos, the Oxford Casino and the Hollywood Casino in Bangor, as well as at OTBs. The mobile segment is expected to account for around 85% of the market when up and running, according to analysts.
Maine’s tribes were recognized by a 1980 land settlements bill that afforded them a narrower version of sovereign rights enjoyed by many other Native American tribes. That included the right to organize gaming on their reservations, which are currently treated like municipalities and so are subject to state laws.
The sports betting bill was part of a wider package that sought to redress this imbalance, up to a point. The state’s new deal with the tribes has made Maine an inhospitable market for operators, which are restricted to just 40% of the revenue from sports betting, with 50% going to the tribes and the remainder to the state.
This, and the size of the market – Main’s population is just under 1.4 million – is why big hitters like DraftKings and FanDuel have decided to give it a swerve.
Caesars, however, is prepared to take a chance on Maine, citing its “longtime commitment to supporting Indian gaming,” in a statement this week.
“Caesars Sportsbook is proud to have signed a historic term sheet in Maine under which it will be the single mobile sports betting provider for three of the state’s tribes of the Wabanaki Nations,” read the statement.
Why the Delay?
Meanwhile, Maine’s gaming regulators are in no hurry to launch the market. They’re still figuring out the rules, which will then be subject to public hearings and multiple legal reviews.
Milton Champion, chief executive of the Maine Gambling Control Unit, told LSR earlier this month that the earliest date the market could launch would be January 2024.
The tribes are beginning to show frustration at the timeline.
Corey Hinton, a Passamaquoddy lawyer who represents tribes, told The Bangor Daily News “something has gone seriously amiss” if rules take two years.
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