Maine launched the formal process of instituting sports betting Wednesday by releasing proposed rules, but it will be months before the first wagers are placed, officials said.
The law adopted by state lawmakers went into effect in August, but the director of the Maine Gambling Control Unit said it was important to move slowly to get the rules right.
A timeline laid out by Milt Champion suggested licenses could be issued between April and January. He said he could not be more specific until the public weighs in over coming weeks.
A public hearing is scheduled for Jan. 31.
"I know this is a hot topic. I know everybody wants it out during the Super Bowl or during March Madness. But let’s face it. It’s just not going to happen" that quickly, he told reporters.
Democratic Gov. Janet Mills gave control of the mobile and online sports betting market to Native American tribes in Maine, providing an olive branch after her veto threat scuttled their proposal for greater sovereignty.
Mobile and online wagering is expected to account for 85% of the sports betting market in Maine, providing a conduit for revenue for the tribes. Each tribe can select its own vendor, meaning there could be up to four licenses for the Penobscot Nation, Passamaquoddy tribes at Indian Township and Pleasant Point, Houlton Band of Maliseets and Mi’kmaq.
Maine’s existing casinos in Bangor and Oxford also can request licenses along with off-track betting parlors.
Thirty-six states already legalized sports gambling since a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2018 opened the door to wagering on sports.
In New England, New Hampshire, Connecticut and Rhode Island allow sports betting, and Massachusetts is awaiting launch after legalization, said Dan Wallach of the Sports Wagering and Integrity Program at the University of New Hampshire School of Law.
In Maine, sports betting is expected to generate between $3.8 million and $6.9 million in revenue for the state, on top of $64 million from casinos and other legal gambling in 2022, Champion said.
Champion said Wednesday that Maine did not recreate the wheel with its proposed rules. Maine examined rules already in place in other states and modeled the state's rules after those, he said.
He said he’d like to see bets being placed this summer, when tourists are visiting the state, but he said there are no guarantees.
It depends on factors including how the public comment period plays out and the length of a review by the attorney general, he said.