Billions are wagered each year on the Super Bowl, the game that every year pits the New England Patriots against the winner of the NFC championship.

Exactly how much, though, is unclear, as most of it goes through the black market.

That’s starting to change around the country, but you still won’t find the Super Bowl – or any game – listed on the board at one of Maine’s casinos or racetracks.

Here, you can bet on the spin of a roulette wheel or which horse will finish third, and you can lay down $10 on a scratch ticket or the Powerball. But if you want to take the Pats – minus the points – Mainers have to place bets online or with their friendly neighborhood bookie.

That didn’t make much sense before last year’s Supreme Court ruling that opened the way for legal sports gambling, and it certainly doesn’t make any now.

As the Legislature begins debating a series of bills on the issue, the focus should be on creating a fair regulatory framework, not arguing over the merits of legalized gambling.


That ship has already sailed. Maine has two casinos, two harness-racing tracks and four off-track betting sites. Every two years, the budget is balanced with substantial help from lottery and scratch ticket sales.

For better or worse, gambling is entrenched here, and the state shouldn’t arbitrarily favor one form of gambling over another. Adding sports gambling to the already extensive choices in Maine is not like creating another casino – it’s more like allowing a new kind of table game.

Keeping up the sports gambling ban makes even less sense when you look around the country. After the court voted 6-3 last year to allow states to decide on the issue for themselves, six states, including Rhode Island, quickly legalized sports gambling, ending a monopoly long enjoyed by Nevada. A research firm predicts that 32 states will have legal sports gambling within five years.

By the end of the legislative session, Maine could be one of them. But there remain a lot of details to work out.

Debate among lawmakers will likely center on who can operate betting sites, with the state’s existing gaming facilities on the inside track, along perhaps with Maine tribes, who have thus far been left out of the gaming industry despite many efforts to get a foothold.

Legislators will have to decide, too, how to regulate online gambling, including mobile – a popular and growing segment of the industry. They’ll also have to say what’s off limits; a ban on gambling on games involving Maine-based teams is being considered.


In Rhode Island, only the state’s two existing casinos are allowed to take bets – and only in person, though they are considering expanding to lottery agents, sports bars and mobile providers. In New Jersey, online gambling is allowed, but only through a partnership with a casino. In Massachusetts, home of daily fantasy sports game giant DraftKings, online-only firms may be allowed to operate.

Maine lawmakers, however, should set aside dreams of abundant new revenue. Rhode Island projected $23.5 million in state revenue for its first nine months of legal gambling. Massachusetts, much bigger and richer than Maine, predicts about $35 million in taxes and licensing fees in the coming fiscal year. Every dollar helps, but that’s barely a drop in a $7.1 billion budget.

But this debate isn’t about the revenue, really, or even the right and wrong of gambling. It’s about consistency, and how to manage a multimillion-dollar market as it emerges from the shadows.

Go Pats.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.