AUGUSTA — House members voted Friday to support the legalization of sports betting in Maine and to grant exclusive rights to conduct mobile gambling to the state’s Indigenous tribes.

Maine’s two casino operators and harness racing tracks would be allowed to conduct in-person sports betting under the bill, but wouldn’t have access to the more lucrative online market.

The measure is part of a compromise bill introduced by Gov. Janet Mills to expand the rights of Maine tribes. While Mills worked with tribal leaders to set up the sports betting proposal and other parts of the bill, she does not support a broader tribal sovereignty bill that cleared the House mostly along party lines Thursday and was approved by the Senate on Friday. In addition to the mobile betting rights, the compromise would change the way the tribes are taxed and encourage more collaboration between the tribes and the state.

It still faces a vote in the Maine Senate next week.

Tribal leaders support the mobile sports betting bill, but don’t see it as a substitute for the broader sovereignty bill that would rewrite the 1980 settlement limiting the rights of the state’s Indigenous communities. The sovereignty bill has the support of most lawmakers but did not receive enough House support to overcome a possible gubernatorial veto.

House Majority Leader Michelle Dunphy, D-Old Town, which includes the Penobscot Nation, said the bill that includes access to sports betting is “not a cure-all,” but is “an important step” toward reconciling past mistreatment of Maine tribes.


“It will perhaps have an immediate impact on their prosperity,” Dunphy said. “It will also, however, be another important step in a long journey over 500 years in the making – the journey of our communities transforming themselves from conquerors and occupiers among a proud people to becoming neighbors.”

The governor’s proposal would make other limited changes, such as removing state sales taxes from certain goods and services produced and consumed on tribal territories or giving the revenues from those taxes to the tribes, and lifting state taxes on incomes earned by tribal members on their reservations.

Rep. Jennifer Poirier, R-Skowhegan, said she supports more collaboration between the state and tribes, and the tax provisions. But she’s opposed to granting tribes exclusive rights to mobile sports betting, which she said is surpassing revenue generated from casinos in other states. It’s estimated that 85 percent of mobile sports bets are placed online, rather than in person.

Poirier said the bill gives tribes “exclusive, special monopolized rights. … For that I have to oppose the motion and I ask you to do the same,” she said.

The Judiciary Committee was divided on the proposal, with six members, all Democrats and one independent, voting in support. The committee produced four minority reports, including three suggested amendments and one opposed.

Rep. Christopher Babbidge, D-Kennebunk, said he doesn’t support expanding gambling in Maine, but understands it’s inevitable. He said he would only support the bill if the state received more than 6 percent of the revenue from sports betting, noting that other New England states receive as much as 51 percent of the profits.


The bill is opposed by the operators of two casinos, who want a share of the mobile sports betting.

The House vote was 81-53, with seven Republicans in support and five Democrats opposed.

A group of lawmakers said Thursday that they plan to propose an amendment to the bill that would allow casinos to offer mobile sports betting along with the tribes. The proposal is likely to come up during the Senate debate next week.

Sen. Joseph Baldacci, D-Bangor, said Thursday the amendment would replace the bill with one that has already been approved by the Legislature. Baldacci said his amendment would ensure that tribes would receive 6 percent of the total adjusted gross online wagering receipts, which he estimated to be between $2 million and $3 million a year.

Chief Francis, however, said tribal leaders do not support that change, because it would put them at a significant disadvantage.

“The amendment, while it’s being cloaked in fairness, is really detrimental to the tribal interest in that bill,” he said. “This is a tribal bill for a meaningful opportunity in Maine’s gaming industry and we believe the inclusion of casinos with online platforms is going to crush any opportunities for the tribes going forward.”

The bill now goes to the Senate, which voted Thursday to approve a separate bill to give the Passamaquoddy Tribe more control over its water supply. The governor has expressed concerns about that bill as well. But her office has not responded to requests for comment about whether she would veto that bill, which is poised to overcome any veto.

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