Maine Lawmakers Sign Off On Fantasy Sports Gambling Bill

Jun 30, 2017

The Legislature has given all but final approval to a measure that would legalize fantasy sports gambling in Maine. But the measure could be in trouble.

If you listen to professional sports programs, you have likely heard the ads urging fans to play and win. It works like this: fantasy players put together a fantasy team, made up of athletes from real professional sports teams. They make a payment upfront to enter the contest, and win money back based on how those players perform in real-life games.

Pro football dominates the online leagues, run by websites such as FanDuel and Draft Kings. Several states have laws regulating the fantasy sports leagues’ contests, which run from a day to sometimes as long as a week. State Rep. Kathleen Dillingham, a Republican from Oxford, urged colleagues to add Maine to that list.

“I would ask that you support the motion, move forward and make sure that we are able to have regulations in place for this industry and that we ensure there are consumer protections for the 215,000 participants in the state of Maine,” she said.

The bill contains language declaring that the state of maine views fantasy sports as games of skill, not chance, in order to comply with federal online gambling law. Rep. Kent Ackley, an independent from Monmouth, doesn’t buy that argument.

“I don’t think the state of Maine should be in the business of feeding what could be an addiction,” he said.

Ackley also said that the legislation is not a good deal for Maine, because the costs of oversight would eat up most of the fees assessed to the companies running the fantasy leagues. The legislation is projected to net just $10,000 in the first year of the law. And Rep. Craig Hickman, a Democrat from Winthrop, said the bill is really meant to benefit the fantasy profiteers.

“This bill has more holes in it than cheesecloth. This bill is written by an industry to protect an industry in the state of Maine. We are not going to get very much out of it,” he said.

Hickman points out the online-based gambling is generating a lot of money nationally. One study estimated $2.6 billion in entry fees nationally were paid in 2015 and that those fees will grow to more than $14 billion in 2020.

Rep. William Tuell, a Republican from East Machias, said Mainers like their fantasy sports and are already playing it.

“Some do it for entertainment, everybody does it — a lot do it — are sports fans. And I think this bill is the best way forward for daily fantasy,” he said.

The legislation would put oversight of the fantasy sports gambling under the state gambling control board, which oversees most other gambling in the state.

While the bill was passed with wide margins, it still may face difficulties. Gov. Paul LePage has not said what he thinks of the proposal, but has opposed gambling expansion through new casinos. If he chooses to veto the bill, supporters will need to pick up more support in the House in order to override it.

This story was originally posted on June 29, 2017 at 4:43 p.m. ET.