Gov. Janet Mills has signed a law legalizing sports betting in Maine and giving the state’s tribes exclusive rights to conduct online wagering.

The law was the result of negotiations between the Mills administration and the leaders of Maine’s tribes, which comprise the Wabanaki Confederacy. It will take effect in late July.

It allows Maine’s existing casinos to conduct in-person sports betting, while the tribes have sole access to the more lucrative online betting market as a way to inject resources into tribal governments to help improve education, health care and infrastructure. In addition, the law, L.D. 585, eases the tax burden on Maine’s Indigenous people and creates a new process for state and tribal collaboration on policy.

“This law provides meaningful economic opportunities for the Wabanaki Nations. It incentivizes investment in tribal communities, and it formalizes a collaboration process on policy that sets the foundation for a stronger relationship in the future,” Mills said in a written statement.

The governor’s announcement called the law the most significant tribal legislation enacted in Maine in more than 40 years.

The Legislature also passed a broader bill that would lift 42-year-old restrictions limiting the rights of Maine tribes to govern themselves and oversee tribal resources. That bill, L.D. 1626, would put Maine tribes on par with federally recognized tribes in all other states.

However, the Legislature has not sent that bill to the governor for a signature because Mills has indicated she would veto it and there is not enough support to override a veto. Mills argued the bill is too broad and would lead to new legal conflicts between the state and the tribes.

 

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